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Let Nature's Harvest Continue
29 June 2000
African Counter-Statement to Monsanto
An invitation to stand in solidarity to resist gene technology From Delegates to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Plant Genetic Resources
During the past few weeks, European citizens have been exposed to an aggressive publicity campaign in major European newspapers trying to convince the reader that the world needs genetic engineering to feed the hungry. Organised and financed by Monsanto, one of the worlds biggest chemical companies, this campaign gives a totally distorted and misleading picture of the potential of genetic engineering to feed developing countries.
We, the undersigned delegates of African countries negotiating at the FAO on farmers rights, access and benefit-sharing, strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environment friendly nor economically beneficial to us.
It is time to look at some of the facts about the company behind this campaign. Monsanto is one of the world's largest pesticide companies. During the past two years only it spent over US$ 6000 million to take control over other seed and biotechnology companies and is now the major industrial player in this field. Its major focus is not to protect the environment, but to develop crops that can resist higher doses of its best-selling chemical weed killer 'Roundup'.
Rather than stretching a helping hand to farmers, Monsanto threatens them with lawsuits and jail. In the USA, the company employs tactics to find and bring to court those farmers that save Monsanto soybean seeds for next year's planting. Backed by patent law, the company demands the right to inspect the farmers' fields to check whether they practise agriculture according to Monsanto conditions and with Monsanto chemicals.
Rather than developing technology that feeds the world, Monsanto uses genetic engineering to stop farmers from replanting seed and further develop their agricultural systems. It has spent US$ 18000 million to buy a company owning a patent on what has become known as "Terminator Technology" seed that can be planted only once and dies in the second generation. The only aim of this technology is to force farmers back to the Monsanto shop every year, and to destroy an age old practice of local seed saving that forms the basis of food security in our countries.
In the advertising campaign Europeans are asked to give an unconditional green light to gene technology so that chemical corporations such as Monsanto can start harvesting their profits from it. We do not believe that such companies or gene technologies will help our farmers to produce the food that is needed in the 21st century. On the contrary, we think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millennia and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves.
In particular, we will not accept the use of "Terminator" or other gene technologies that kill the capacity of our farmers to grow the food we need. We invite European citizens and colleagues from the South to stand in solidarity with Africa in resisting these gene technologies so that our diverse and natural harvests can continue and grow.
We agree and accept that mutual help is needed to further improve agricultural production in our countries. We also believe that Western science can contribute to this. But it should be done on the basis of understanding and respect for what is already there. It should be building on local knowledge, rather than replacing and destroying it. And most importantly: it should address the real needs of our people, rather than serving only to swell the pockets and control of giant industrial corporations.
Additional Statement by Zimbabwean Delegate
Africa should not be used as a testing ground for technologies and products which have been developed elsewhere. We reserve our sovereign right to test these technologies ourselves, examine their effectiveness and compatibility to the environment our region.
Signed in support and solidarity by
*** The web site where you can find the African statement condemning the Monsanto's "Let the Harvest Begin" campaign is http://www.ukabc.org/gaiam2_2.htm ***
This message is distributed via the Africa Faith and Justice Network for the Advocacy Network for Africa (ADNA). Visit ADNA on the web at http://www.africapolicy.org/adna