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GM Crops Spark Food Sovereignty Protests

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June 25, 2004

GM Crops Spark Food Sovereignty Protests

Taiwanese Farmers March in Protest of WTO-Mandated Agriculture Regulations.
Thousands of farmers in twenty-six countries held public demonstrations advocating food sovereignty and decrying the role of transnational corporations in agriculture. The largest agricultural protest took place in California and was accompanied by a large police presence. Among those issues being protested is the World Trade Organization's involvement in the proliferation of genetically modified (GM) crops against the will of some member states.

The European Union recently allowed the importation of some Swiss-engineered GM crops even though products containing these foods will be labeled, and growing the crops in EU countries is still prohibited. Friends of the Earth Europe delivered a petition with over 100,000 names to the WTO stating that the trade body has no place in the GM crop debate, as it is "secretive, undemocratic and unfit to serve in the interests of the general public".

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) released a report claiming the GM crops have no established adverse effects to health or the environment, and help poor farmers. Anti-GM advocates accused the FAO of bending to corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta, while biotech firms accused them of "scare-mongering". Facing difficulties in convincing European consumers to buy products labeled as genetically modified, Monsanto recently cancelled its "Roundup-Ready" GM wheat project.

Proponents of GM crops point to a lack of evidence of risks to health and environment, and higher yields for farmers. Those who advocate prohibition of GM crops counter that research into risks is heavily skewed by corporate funding, and that GM crops are designed with corporate profit first in mind.

Others point out that crop yields are not the problem, but that poverty, lack of price regulation and equitable distribution are. Raj Patel of the Institute for Food and Development Policy argues that it is not farmers that benefit from higher yields, but transnational food distributors that benefit from the resulting lower prices. "Corporations depend on cheap inputs, such as the agricultural products grown in the Third World, to make their food processing profitable." US taxpayer funded "food aid," says Patel, serves to drive prices down further by flooding African markets with subsidized GM corn and rice.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) of Canada makes a similar case: farmers, it claims, are already producing far more than is needed; it is the plummeting price of food and the consolidated power of the distributors that forces them to produce greater volume at a lower cost in order to stay afloat.

» Associated Press: UN food agency backs genetically modified crops

» Via Campesina: Actions in 26 Countries

» AP: Protesters demand WTO keep out of genetically modified food issue

» Institute for Food and Development Policy: The Profits of Famine: Southern Africa's Long Decade of Hunger

» Institute for Food and Development Policy: Food Aid in the New Millenium - Genetically Engineered Food and Foreign Assistance

» AP: U.N. food agency supports genetically modified crops despite lingering public opposition

» Reuters: EU Lifts Genetically Modified Food Ban

» GlobalVision News Network: Farmers Blame Health Problems on Genetically Modified Crops

» Truth About Trade: Kenya prepares to grow genetically modified maize

» Science Magazine: Monsanto Pulls the Plug on Genetically Modified Wheat

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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