Apr 20, 2007
7th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-7)
Numerous cases of contamination of non-GM crops by unauthorised, illegal or undesired GM crops have occurred following the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment.
Rice is the most consumed
cereal grain in the world, constituting the
dietary staple food for more than half of
the planet’s human population. About 80% of
the world's rice is grown by small-scale
farmers in developing countries. Now our
rice is under threat of being contaminated
with genetic engineered varieties developed
by the biotech industry and some
Unapproved gm rice found: ban on Chinese rice imports urgently needed
Unapproved gm rice found in the US
See FoEI briefing paper: GM Rice: a new threat to our food supply , September 2006
Numerous cases of contamination of non-GM
crops by unauthorised, illegal or undesired
GM crops have occurred following the
introduction of genetically modified
organisms (GMOs) into the environment. From
Europe to North America, Asia to Latin
America, once a GMO is released contamination
has no boundaries. The contamination cases we
see today are of huge concern, particularly
because the contamination we know about is
probably just the tip of the iceberg in
comparison to that which we do not yet know.
around the world.
Friends of the Earth has monitored the seed and food supply all over the world for the presence of illegal or inauthorized GMOs in every continent since 2000.
StarLink and other unauthorized GMOs found in the food chain around the world
In 2000 FoE US leaded the discovery of StarLink, a GM maize variety no t authorised for human consumption as food because of the potential allergenicity of the protein Cry9C that was genetically engineered into the maize. Nevertheless, in 2000 StarLink was discovered in ‘Taco Bell’ taco shells, a maize-derived food product eaten in the US purchased by FoE US Larry Bohlen. The magnitude and gravity of the StarLink contamination was breathtaking. More than 300 corn products were recalled across the United States. Despite the fact that StarLink was only planted on 0.4 per cent of total US corn acreage, the number of acres contaminated was much greater. More surprisingly, the contamination was not confined to just StarLink-branded seeds.
At the June 2002 United Nations World Food
Summit in Rome, Latin American NGOs announced
that StarLink had been found in US food aid
in Bolivia. See
Playing with Hunger
StarLink was found five years later again in Central America.
The US experience provides another example of a major concern for the environment: “biopharmaceuticals”. “Biopharming” is an experimental application of biotechnology in which plants are genetically engineered to produce pharmaceutical proteins and chemicals that they do not produce naturally. A few known examples include a contraceptive, potent growth hormones, a blood clotting agent, blood thinners, industrial enzymes, and vaccines.
Evidence of the negative effects of GM crops from around the world.
|argentina||gm does not feed the world|
|bolivia||no gm potatoes|
|canada||corporate control of seeds|
|georgia||gm potatoes mashed|
|indonesia||bt cotton out of sulawesi|
|mexico||contamination in corn's birthplace|
|nicaragua||gmo food aid|
|spain||secrecy linked to gm corn|
|united states||uncontrolled contamination|
|tomato goes rotten|
|gmo food aid|
|united kingdom||uk field trials show mixed results|
The US government is engaged in a legal dispute aimed at forcing the EU and the rest of the world to lift restrictions on GM food and farming.
gmo trade war
To force GMO products into global markets, George Bush has filed a legal dispute at the WTO, accusing the European Union of blocking trade by restricting GMOs. If successful, not only will the EU have to accept genetically modified food and farming but so will the rest of the world.
read more about gmo in our publications:
- bite back! hands of our food: the GMO trade war between the european union and the united states
foe europe briefing (nov 2003)
- pushing gmos down our throats: us government, agribusiness and wto launch food fight with Europe excerpt from business rules: who pays the price (sep 2003)
- bite back!: wto hands off our food
gmos and free trade
- fertile resistance in agrobiodiversity: local communities defending agrobiodiversity against gmos and agrobusiness (august 2002)
- contaminated corn in mexico: excerpt from business rules: who pays the price (sep 2003)
- biosafety protocol: foei gmo campaign page
- contaminated food aid: foei gmo campaign page
gmo talks end in acrimonyKey United Nations negotiations on the safe trade of genetically modified crops and foods ended in early June in acrimony. Despite over 100 countries demanding comprehensive controls to limit GM contamination, the move was blocked by just two countries that sided with the GM industry – New Zealand and Brazil. These UN Biosafety Protocol negotiations were aimed at bringing in international rules to reduce contamination from imports of GM crops and to introduce full labeling. However, despite support from virtually all countries, especially in the developing world, little progress was made in making the laws stronger due to shameless blocking by New Zealand and Brazil
Between the 30th of May and the 3rd of
June, Montreall hosted the second Meeting of
the Parties (MOP) of the Biosafety Protocol.
The Parties to the Protocol negotiated a
decision about how to identify Genetically
Modified Organisms (GMOs) for food, feed and
processing. GMO contamination today is one of
the major threats to biosafety worldwide. The
issue of identifying GMO shipments for food,
feed and processing would give a signal to
whether we are moving towards a world where
GMO contamination becomes the exception or
To tackle GMO contamination effectively, segregation and identity preserved systems are necessary so that GM crops can be separated from non-GM crops, and GM events can be traced through the whole chain
The meeting is already steeped in controversy with Canada refusing visas for several delegates from the developing world.
A new report from Friends of the Earth "tackling GMO contamination: making segregation and identity preservation a reality" calls tighter measures to prevent accidental contamination of conventional food. The report, published by Friends of the Earth International, the world's largest grassroots environmental network, concludes that the threat of GMO contaminaton would be greatly reduced if the few countries producing GM crops were forced to segregate effectively conventionally grown crops from GM ones.
BRAZIL 2006: International Meeting on GMOs is expected to take a decision on the right to know the presence of GMOs in the global agriculture trade system
After more than a decade of planting GM crops in the environment, over 130 Parties of the United Nations Agreement on Genetically Modified Organisms , called the Biosafety Protocol, will meet in Curitiba, Brazil, to take a crucial decision that may significantly affect the current model of development and trade of GM foods around the world. At stake is the right of countries to know about the presence of GMOs destined for food, feed and processing (which constitute the bulk of GMOs traded in the world today) in the global trade market.
The biotech industry has consistently opposed clear identification and labelling for any of the GM crops on the market today. Without information about the content of GMOs traded around the world the right to know of importing countries and its citizens is violated. This situation may also contribute to further contamination of the global food and feed supply, which may lead to contamination of seeds and crops.
Briefing : Global Standard on identification of GMOs to be decided by International Treaty
The context of the meeting
The meeting takes places amid a controversial debate about the benefits of GM crops and food after a decade of experience, and a polemic ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) between the US and the European Union (EU). The current briefing sets in context the key issues that will be discussed at the Third Meeting of the Parties of the Biosafety Protocol (called MOP 3) which will be held between the 13 th and 17 th of March in Brazil.
Report: Who Benefits from GM Crops
WTO Briefing : "Looking behind the US spin" WTO ruling does not prevent countries from restricting or banning GMOs.
what is the biosafety protocol
The Biosafety Protocol aims to protect citizens worldwide from the potential risks derived from GMOs by:
- regulating transboundary movements of GMOs
- implementing liability rules in the event of damage caused by GMOs.
The Protocol is the first international agreement that clearly shows that GMOs are different from conventional organisms and therefore require different treatment.
The Biosafety Protocol is a United Nations agreement adopted in 2000 in Montreal, Canada that seeks to protect the environment from the potential risks of GMOs. It became law on September 11th 2003, and by March 2005 over 130 countries around the world became party to this treaty.
Meeting of the Parties
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 2004
After the Biosafety Protocol entered into foce, the Parties meet to take crucial decisions to reinforce the controls over the trade global system on GMOs. The first Meeting took place in February, 2004, negotiations over further measures took place at the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Friends of the Earth campaigned in Malaysia to prevent the US Coalition to undermine the Biosafety Protocol, and for comprehensive rules on identification, labelling and liability on GMOs.
Despite the pressure from the biotech industry, the results were very positive. Friends of the Earth welcomed the conclusion of the first meeting of the parties to the Biosafety Protocol as an important step forward for protecting consumers, farmers and the environment from the dangers of GMOs.
Montreal, Canada 2005
Montreal hosted the second Meeting of the Parties (MOP) of the Biosafety Protocol, between the 30th of May and the 3rd of June 2005. The Parties to the Protocol negotiated a decision about how to identify Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for food, feed and processing. GMO contam ina tion today is one of the major threats to biosafety worldwide. The issue of identifying GMO shipments for food, feed and processing would give a signal to whether we are moving towards a world where GMO contam ina tion becomes the exception or the rule.
Read more about Friends of the Earth International activities during the meeting.
Find out more at the Convention on Biological Diversity website
Contamination of corn in Oaxaca, Mexico, highlights the real threat that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) pose to the environment.
“This is the world’s worst case of contamination by genetically modified material because it happened in the place of origin of a major crop. It is confirmed. There is no doubt about it.”
Jorge Soberón, Secretary of Mexico’s National Biodiversity Commission, April 2002.
Contamination of corn in Oaxaca, Mexico, highlights the real threat that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) pose to the environment. Government legislation to prevent GMO contamination of the natural environment is likely to be challenged by the US in the World Trade Organization.
The contamination of native corn at its source of origin in Oaxaca, Mexico by transgenic corn was confirmed in September 2001. According to a Food First report, written by the ETC Group (Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration), “The location of the contamination is one of the world’s most valuable reservoirs of genetic material for plant breeding and a foundation for global food security.”
Mexico has had a moratorium on the planting of GMO corn since 1998. However, GMO corn was still being imported from the US, and farmers were probably unaware that they were planting genetically modified seeds. As Olga Toro Maaldonado, a Oaxacan farmer stated, “No one told us that we should not plant the corn.”
According to the Food First report, “this genetic pollution poses ‘significant potential risks’ that have not been fully and independently studied, such as genetic effects on local corn varieties as a result of cross-pollination by genetically modified plants, the largely unexplored health risks of eating GM foods, and potential ecological and crop management problems which may arise as modified traits pass from the GM crops to wild relatives. The contamination could also potentially expose Mexican farmers to the risk of lawsuits for infringement of monopoly patents, and could threaten future opportunities to export untainted corn to GM-free markets in Europe and elsewhere.”
more information: Food First: www.foodfirst.org/media/press/2002/geneticpollution.html
Just days before the start of negotiations on controversial new measures, Canada has denied a visa to chief African negotiators.
|FoE Togo delegate Agbenyo Dgzobedo also had his visa request denied, by the Canadian Embassy in Accra. The Canadian agent was not convinced Agbenyo would quit Canada after his trip, for reasons related to "his past trips". This is an unconvincing reason because Agbenyo was at the Intergovernmental Committee for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (ICCP) in Europe in 2002, the MoP on Biosafety in Malasia last year, as well as several other trips to Europe. He has already been part of the international negotiations for three years, so there was no reason to block him.|
Along with Argentina and the United States, Canada is responsible for up to 90 percent of the genetically engineered crops in the world - yet these countries refuse to ratify the global agreement to protect biodiversity.
Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of negotiators who stand up to biotech bullies. This is no way to host international negotiations.”
The Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety Friends of the Earth Canada spoke out against the visa refusal .“In effect, Canada is screening out is the first international agreement to regulate trade in genetically engineered organisms. It was agreed in Montreal in January 2000 and has now been ratified by 119 countries.
Read more: open letter from Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher
Apr 20, 2004
Report on a side event on the impacts of the commodification of biological and cultural diversity organized by the Global Forest Coalition, in cooperation with the World Rainforest Movement, Oilwatch and Friends of the Earth International
Miguel Lovera, coordinator of the Global Forest Coalition, started with a brief introduction on the "Life as Commerce" project, which analyses the impacts of the privatization and commercialization of so-called "ecological services" on small farmers and other local people.
Elizabeth Bravo of Oilwatch talked about the situation in her country, Ecuador. She explained how the Indigenous Peoples of Ecuador believe in the concept of Pachamama, Earth as a a sacred mother. She rejected the concept of environmental services, as it turns people into clients of the Earth, which is like turning children into the clients of their mother. Meanwhile, the Ecuadorian government has strongly embraced the concept of environmental services, and they are actively trying to privatize and commercialize natural functions like water provision and purification, biodiversity - for biopiracy purposes, landscape - for tourism and carbon sinks. The bilateral trade agreement they are currently negotiating with the US would even oblige them to adopt such an ecoservices approach.
Raquel Nunez of World Rainforest Movement explained how protected areas have lead to the expulsion of Indigenous Peoples from the very first national park - Yosemite in the US - on. This trend is continuing until today, and many Indigenous Peoples and local communities are being subtly or forcefully displaced to make way for business. The increasing tendency of governments to sell off protected area management into the hands of "partnerships" of corporations and conservation organizations is a serious threat for Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Governments should respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. The Mumbai Initiative, which came forth from the World Social Forum in 2004, is trying to establish a global movement to ensure forest conservation and to protect the rights of people to exploit their own forest resources.
Abdul Wahib Situmorang of WALHI/ Friends of the Earth-Indonesia explained how different "stakeholders" have different perspectives on conservation. Indigenous Peoples see it as a way to protect their livelihood, while governments see conservation as a project for money. Some NGOs see ecology and people as one, while others look at conservation from the ecological perspective only. There are many examples of the tensions these different perspectives cause. When the Indonesian Government and conservation NGOs decided to establish the national park Lori Lindu, they did not respect the fact that people had been living there in harmony with nature for a long time. Instead, they saw them as a threat and tried to displace them. In the Komodo National park, there are violent conflicts between the government and the local people who depend on the area, leading to almost a dozen of casualties. So what is the benefit of conservation if people are removed from the place they live?
Thomas Jalong from the SAM/Friends of the Earth-Malaysia Sarawak office talked about the threats of the privatization of parks in Sarawak. There are no less than 10 national parks in Sarawak, and most are located in areas where Indigenous Peoples live. According to the law, native communities have a right of access to the resources in the park, but now the management of one park has been given in hands of a company, which is promoting an ecotourism project, and trying to limit the participation of local people in the park's management. People were promised that they would be able to participate in the management of the park, but the company ignores them. Nowadays, the company is developing a particularly big tourism resort on the edge of the park, without any consultation with the local people, and it is now pressuring the local people to resettle, to give way to the development of other infrastructure in the park.
Isaac Rojas of COECO-CEIBA/ Friends of the Earth-Costa Rica described the establishment of the National Biodiversity Institute of his country, INBIO, which was established as a private company. It has specialized in facilitating biopiracy. Thirteen years ago it drafted the first biopiracy agreement with the US company Merck, in which it sold Costarican genetic resources for some 100.000 dollars. The money was to be spent on conservation, but by now we know that local people and Indigenous Peoples have not benefited from this commerce. And even INBIO itself has admitted recently that biopiracy is not that profitable as a business. However, it is still pushing for a flexible regime on access to genetic resources, as it is afraid companies will not invest in its genetic resources if there are too many rules. Meanwhile, it is unknown what happens to the genetic resources that are sold. Some of them are patented, but nobody knows what is patented and what not.
The Costarican government is also involved in the privatization of parks, which leads to further biopiracy. An even bigger threat has derived from the negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement with the US, as the US has forced Costa Rica to sign the Convention of the Union for the Protection of Plant Varieties (UPOV) of 1991 which requires countries to develop a patent-like intellectual property rights system for plant varieties. Water and beaches are also increasingly being privatized, with the argument that it is good to involve more stakeholders in their management. Happily, the public in Costa Rica is becoming more aware of this biopiracy, and social movements have started an active campaign to close down INBIO.
Alejandro Argumedo, an Indigenous representative of from Peru described how the capital of Peru is threatened by a drought because a mining company had used up all the water of a mountain lake that was key to the water provision of the capital. The Quechua people foster their spiritual relationship with nature, and they see the water, the mountain lakes, and the surrounding ecosystems as one. For Indigenous peoples it is unacceptable that something that is sacred is being privatized.
Peru is a centre of origin of potatoes, but the rich variety of potato races is a direct result, not only of the surrounding ecosystem, including water levels, soil quality and pollinators, but also of the local economy as people plant the varieties they need. This economy is essentially non-monetary. So if you privatize these resources the entire system is disrupted. The threats of privatization are very concrete, though, as the interests of companies to buy these resources are increasing.
During the debate, Abraham Baffoe of Friends of the Earth-Ghana described how the situation is very similar in Ghana. In the early 1920's Ghana started to establish national parks, which the local people and the companies could not access. But nowadays most resources outside the national parks are already exploited. So the government has started to give out concessions for logging and mining in national parks. Meanwhile, the local people still have no access to these protected areas. The patrolling and policing in the parks is only to protect them against local people, which are not able to access the areas they need to sustain their livelihood.
People also cautioned against the corporate take-over of the Biodiversity Convention (CBD). While the CBD became more social-oriented in the first years of its existence, it has increasingly become influenced by corporations since the mid nineties, and its social agenda actually seems to go backwards. However, we need to make sure the more progressive NGOs and social movements become involved and strengthen their efforts to counter this trend, so that we convince governments to secure the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
Kuala Lumpur, 12 February 2004