strengthening the fight for a GM-free world
FoEI also continued to track the liability discussions within the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and participated in the Fifth Meeting of the Ad Hoc Group on Liability and Redress. FoEI coordinated its activities with the core group of NGOs following the Protocol’s negotiations, including Third World Network, Ecoropa, and Greenpeace. These collaborative efforts influenced governments' agreement to work towards a legally binding liability regime in the Biosafety Protocol, during the ninth Conference of the Parties in May 2008.
FoE groups in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay and the USA continued to support the Landless Peasant’s Movement (MST) and other grassroots members of La Via Campesina. They also helped to expose the crimes of companies such as Chiquita, Syngenta, Monsanto, in scientific and international policy making fora, and civil society gatherings such as the Permanent People’s Tribunals in Vienna (2006), the Permanent People's Tribunal Session on Biodiversity in Colombia (2007), Peru Enlazando Alternativas 3 and Guatemala (at the Americas Social Forum) 2008. In April 2008, the International Assessment for Agriculture Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) published its report calling for a complete overhaul of corporate controlled agriculture, with more support going to peasant-based sustainable food production. FoEI was active in the final phase of the report’s development: we commented on the biotechnology sections, participated as a member of the Bureau of the IAASTD at the final plenary in Johannesburg, and provided input to the Synthesis report and the Global Summary for Decision Makers.
These reports were very controversial as far as industry participants were concerned, and Syngenta and others walked out of the process in December. The final report was remarkably strong about the need for a radical change in agriculture, and did not promote genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It addressed the need to strengthen regional markets and protecting natural resources; the importance of traditional knowledge; diversity; agro-ecology; and the role of women in agriculture. It recognized the threats from agrofuels; GMOs; intellectual property rights rules; and the model of industrial agriculture. In short it called for more Food Sovereignty! The report was supported by 58 governments.
Europe continued to be an essentially GMO-free zone, which is a very important achievement for the European people, but also for other regions in the world. The food price crisis was cleverly used to try and persuade the EU to weaken its GMO laws and therefore get other regions of the world to grow more kinds of GMOs. FoE groups in Europe researched the issue and were able to prove that lobby groups had manipulated the facts. While this is an important success, however, we need to continue to monitor the process and ensure that laws aren’t weakened behind closed doors.
Over the last few years, African FoE groups and civil society organizations have increased their capacities to monitor the activities of the biotech industry, particularly by testing for GM presence in food supplies, including those provided as food aid (especially in Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo and Swaziland). The results of this monitoring underscore the fact that the African continent has now become a target for contaminated food exports.
There has been significant media coverage on radio and TV and in local newspapers in Africa over the last few years. Most groups reported that public awareness about GMOs had increased among the grassroots, opinion leaders, community leaders, farmers and women; and that grassroots resistance to GMOs was building up. Sustainable agriculture has also been encouraged, and community leaders have been empowered to make informed technological choices. Furthermore, FoE Africa groups have played a key role in the creation of multi-stakeholder coalitions opposing false solutions for food security and food sovereignty (such as GMOs), like Togo and the COPAGEN coalition. As result of these developments, many African governments have opened the door for civil society organizations to engage in the process of building domestic biosafety regimes and implementing the Cartagena Protocol.