SACRAMENTO (US) – More than 100 Agriculture Ministers from over 75 countries, most of them developing countries, will attend a U.S. government sponsored Ministerial Conference on Agricultural Science and Technology from June 23-25, 2003 in Sacramento, California.

The U.S. government and biotech corporations are strongly promoting genetically modified (GM) crops as the primary solution to improving food security and solving hunger in developing countries. Friends of the Earth International opposes the position of President Bush on this issue, and is calling on all governments attending the Ministerial to challenge U.S. and corporate pressure to accept GM food.

In a report presented today at the Ministerial, Friends of the Earth demanded that the U.S. stop using hunger as a political and marketing tool to benefit big agribusiness. Friends of the Earth International’s report entitled “Playing with Hunger”, exposes the problems around the shipment of U.S. GM food aid to developing countries since 2000. It also shows the hypocrisy behind the constantly overplayed U.S. Government argument in recent days that GM crops are needed to solve hunger in Southern countries.

Ricardo Navarro, Salvadorean chairman of Friends of the Earth International said: “GM crops are not the solution to hunger. If Bush wanted to tackle hunger in the South he would be answering the real causes of hunger, like poverty, debt, lack of infrastructure and others that make impossible to small farmers to compete in world markets”.

Controversy over genetically modified food aid arose in 2000 and grew increasingly in 2002, when several Southern African countries refused GM food aid during a food crisis and requested non-modified staples instead. African countries were presented with a fake choice: accepting GM crops or face starvation, even though there was an ample supply of non-modified crops available. Several countries – like Mozambique and Zimbabwe — rejected GM corn due to environmental concerns, but accepted milled GM corn as a compromise.

Only Zambia decided to reject GM corn in both grain and milled forms, citing health concerns. Several initial reports coming from Zambia suggest that the country has so far been able to cope with the food crisis without GM food aid.

“Food aid is being used, particularly by the US, as a marketing tool to capture new markets. Big agribusinesses are huge beneficiaries of the current food aid system,” said Ricardo Navarro.

These views are echoed by the 15-nation European Union (EU), which is also heavily criticised by Friends of the Earth International for its agricultural policy.

According to a June 17 document of the EU’s executive European Commission: “biotechnology alone will not be able to address all the underlying causes of food insecurity. Low income, poor infrastructures, lack of access to credit, etc., are all aspects at the roots of food crisis and can only be addressed by long term sustainable development.”

In this document, the European Commission adds: “Some developing countries, including a large number African countries suffering a shortage of food, have requested main donors of food aid to avoid providing GMO food, for a combination of reasons (…). The EU finds it unacceptable that the legitimate concerns of those countries are used by the US as a means of propaganda against the EU policy on GMOs.”

“Food aid to starving populations should be about meeting the urgent humanitarian needs of those who are in need. It should not be about trying to advance the case for GM food abroad, or planting GM crops for export, or indeed finding outlets for domestic surplus, which is a regrettable aspect of the US food aid policy.”


In Sacramento, US, Larry Bohlen, Friends of the Earth International GMO Programme Coordinator, tel. +1-202-270-1547

In El Salvador, Ricardo Navarro, Chairman Friends of the Earth International. Tel: +503-2200046 or +503-2206480