GMOs not solutions to food crisis

Greenpeace calls on Philippine government to heed UN warnings

Feature story - April 16, 2008
Greenpeace today called on the Philippine government to heed the warnings of the world's leading agricultural scientists that industrial agricultural practices and genetically-modified (GMO) crops will not solve the current food crisis.

Rice is life.

The call came at the launch of a landmark United Nations(UN) report--the very first assessment of global agriculture that recommends the replacement of destructive chemical-intensive agriculture with methods that work with nature not against it.  Some 60 governments, meeting in Johannesburg since last week, have signed the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)'s final report [1], expected to guide agricultural and food production in the coming decades.  The report says industrial agriculture has failed and that GMOs are no solution for poverty, hunger or climate change.

"The ongoing rice crisis should not be used as an excuse to neglect our existing regulations governing GMOs, especially since there are other sources of GMO-free rice.  The recommendations of the report are especially significant as it clearly shows the failure of past and present government-initiated programs to boost rice production through agriculture highly dependent on costly toxic chemical inputs as well as corporate-owned seeds, such as GMOs and hybrid seeds.  The government would do well to heed the report and reexamine their misplaced focus on industrial farming which has diverted government funds from supporting ecological solutions to that ensure food security  and sound environment," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Genetic Engineering Campaigner Daniel Ocampo.

Greenpeace maintains that the Philippine government's plans to increase fertilizer subsidies and its support of GMO crops are unsound farming practices that would endanger, rather than improve, the country's agricultural sector.  "By using these methods, the government is actually compounding the food problem, not solving it," Ocampo added. "The worst example is how the National Food Authority has distributed US rice which has not yet been stringently tested to be GMO-free."

The Philippine government blatantly supports GMO crops, even those that have been rejected in other countries for safety concerns.  The UN IAASTD report is highly critical of GMOs, calling instead for a fundamental change in farming practices, in order to address soaring food prices, hunger, social inequities and environmental disasters. It acknowledges that genetically engineered crops are highly controversial and will not play a substantial role in addressing the key problems of climate change, biodiversity loss, hunger and poverty.

It recommends small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods are the way forward if the current food crisis is to be solved and to meet the needs of local communities, declaring indigenous and local knowledge play as important a role as formal science, a significant departure from the destructive chemical-dependent, one-size-fits-all model of industrial agriculture.

Notes to editors: 1. The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) is a unique collaboration initiated by the World Bank in partnership with a multi-stakeholder group of organisations, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environmental Programme, the World Health Organisation and representatives of governments, civil society, private sector and scientific institutions from around the world. For Greenpeace, Benny Härlin participated since 2003 in the Bureau that governs the project. The IAASTD's key objective is to provide information for decision makers on how to structure agricultural research and development so it can help to reduce hunger and poverty, improve rural livelihood and foster sustainable development. The key final documents are the Global Summary for Decision Makers, and the Executive Summary of the Synthesis Report. They were negotiated line by line by governments in Johannesburg. More information on www.agassessment-watch.org 2. The report was compiled by over 400 of the world's leading agricultural scientists, selected by all participating governments, companies and NGOs. It is the most comprehensive account of agricultural knowledge, science and technology. It provides guidance for governments, UN agencies and funders for their future priority setting in agriculture and development. The next step is for government and agencies to adjust their funding, research and development programmes accordingly.

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