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"Since genetic engineering manipulates the basis of life, the risks involved are more frightening than any other developed so far... We feel it is unjust of the richest of the world to expect us to bear the risks of their experimentation." - Tewolde Egziabher, Ethiopian Delegate (CBD).

In April UN delegates will be yapping about the state of the world's biodiversity resources over two-headed salmon and champagne at the sixth meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Holland. Set up during the UN Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the CBD have only just agreed on the useless Biosafety Protocol and The Law of the Seed. Neither will have the power to stop the legal or illegal spread of GMOs, protect farmers rights or stop finite resources being plundered for profit. This is because these UN organisations didn't have the power or force of will to fight powerful biotech corporations and the World Trade Organisation.

But the global commercialisation of genetically engineered crops and the complete control of our food chain by large multinationals, is still far from a foregone conclusion. In fields, boardrooms and courtrooms around the world the GM giants aren't getting an easy ride. Here's a short round up of just a few of the memorable events that ruffled the feathers of the biotech giants in the last 12 months.

Global Alliance

International Day Of Farmers' Struggle Against GMO

April 17th 2001 was declared 'International Day of Farmers Struggle Against GMOs' by Via Campesina (www.vicampesina.org), an international movement for small farmers, rural people, and indigenous communities. This day marked the launch of their International Alliance Against Agrochemical Transnatioanl Corporations, GMOs and Patents on Life, and the start of protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in Quebec City, Canada (see SchNEWS 302).

In February 2002 twelve nations including China, Brazil and India, agreed to join the alliance against bio-piracy and vowed to press for rules protecting their peoples' rights to genetic resources found on their land. The declaration - also signed by representatives of Indonesia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Kenya, Peru, Venezuela, and South Africa - echoed complaints long voiced by Indians and environmentalists: that wealthy nations are "prospecting" for species in order to patent or sell them. There are absolutely no concessions or benefits offered for the local people. Together the 12 nations in the alliance contain 70 percent of the world's biodiversity.

FTAA - Green Light For GM

The International Day of Farmers Struggle Against GMOs coincided with the Summit Of The Americas in Quebec where the finishing touches were put to the FTAA - a free trade agreement which believe it or not favours GM corporations and mass-scale agro-industry rather than small farmers. In the weeks leading up to the creation of FTAA the US government and its corporations attempted to reverse GM regulations introduced in several Latin American nations.

* In MEXICO the Senate had unanimously agreed to introduce labelling of GM foods but food corporations in the USA threatened sanctions and legal action through the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) unless they revoked the law.

* ARGENTINA, the country in South America most up-to-its-eyeballs in GM, where 90% of soya crops are GM, was threatened with sanctions by Monsanto unless it removed all its remaining regulations covering GM crops.

* BRAZIL, where agricultural exports are booming because consumers groups and foreign importers demanded a ban on GM crops, Monsanto threatened legal action using WTO rules to force the nation to open its doors to GM. In Florianopolis, 800 miles south of Brasilia, 2000 Brazilian women blockaded a supermarket that was selling GM food.

The FTAA is now the world's largest trade bloc and promises to operate like the World Trade Organisation, with tough sanctions for any nation whose environmental or health & safety regulations threaten the profits of multinational corporations. Like the WTO, the FTAA is almost completely controlled by the USA (where about 30 years worth of environmental regulations have just been scrapped) and it is feared that the USA will try to use the FTAA to ban the labelling of GM food throughout North and South America because such labels are an 'obstacle to free trade'. The WTO has taken away precautionary principles that GMOs have to be proven safe, leaving pro-GM lobbyists suggesting consumers spend their own money on the testing of GMOs.

French farmer Jose Bove appeared in Quebec City at the FTAA protest meeting, despite 'wanted' posters of him being displayed at every airport and customs post in the nation. There, on behalf of farmers' unions around the world he urged Canadians to destroy genetically modified 'seeds of death' and attack laboratories where GM crops were being developed. He said "people here must also join the resistance movement and not just make speeches. This means that GM crops must be destroyed, this means that the laboratories that continue to make these seeds of death must be attacked, this means that Monsanto and Novartis facilities must be attacked, they must not be given five minutes of peace. We have to fight against this because if it goes ahead, it means farmers won't be able to decide any more what they are going to grow. This is a fight which must be fought every day and in doing so you should not be afraid to break the law... all forms of combat are possible."


"What's frightening is how fast it has spread" said Yolanda Lara, spokesperson for Oaxaca's non-governmental Rural Development Agency about the spread of GM corn in Capulalpan, a village in the hills of Mexico's Oaxaca State. Normally locals might be thankful for this new source of corn, the staple food of villages in the area. But they now know this corn is GM, which is surprising because GM crops have been banned in Mexico since 1998. Berkeley scientists have confirmed that this new corn is the spawn of Monsanto: it has the same DNA as the biotech giant's commercial GM maize. David Quist, responsible for the study suggests that "It's more likely that the contamination came from food aid brought into these regions. A lot of it comes from the United States and a lot of it is transgenic."

So under the guise of offering support to poverty stricken villagers in remote parts of Mexico, the US has managed to off-load tonnes of subsidised GM maize on unsuspecting shopkeepers and subsistence farmers. Locals are worried that the GM corn, which they say has been around in their shops for several years, will out-compete native varieties. The Berkeley study confirms their fears, suggesting that GM corn is likely to dominate local corn and may also threaten the research of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, home to the largest variety of endangered maize in the world. Quist believes a well-enforced ban on imported GM corn and a programme to encourage traditional habits of swapping and testing wild seeds is the way forward.


On the 29th August 2001, 800 people including many local farmers stormed one of Monsanto's experimental fields in South Cotabato, Mindanao. The operation took about ten minutes leaving police helpless. "Faster! Faster!" were the shouts as the protesters hurriedly uprooted the GM corn in the 1,700-sq/m experimental field of Bt-corn ('Bt' - Bacillus thuringiensis - genetically modified for pest resistance).

In October 2001, 300 people rallied in Isabela to protest against Monsanto's continued field testing of the genetically modified Bt-corn in the province. The protesters massed in front of the marketing office of Monsanto in Cauayan City and staged a noise barrage. Also that month, Swiss corporation Novartis AG confirmed allegations from Greenpeace that some samples of baby food it sold in the Phillipines did contain genetically modified soybean. Beau Baconguis of Greenpeace Asia said, "We should not be forced to feed our children with food the rest of the world is increasingly rejecting."

On 3rd January 2002 activists in the Philippines occupied unloading equipment to prevent over 17,000 tonnes of genetically engineered soya from entering the South East Asian food supply. In an early morning raid four people chained themselves to the largest soya factory in the Philippines where recent tests show widespread GM contamination. Protesters on inflatables then attached a large banner to the hull of the cargo ship, which was waiting to unload its contaminated cargo from America. The banner read "USA - Stop Dumping GMOs in Asia". A year ago President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's government promised to give consumers GM food labelling. Unsurprisingly nothing has happened yet.


India is the biggest cotton producer in the world so it was big news when, in 1998, 500 farmers committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh, a state in southern India, because of the failure of their cotton crops. Dr. Pushpa Bhargava, an Indian biologist, told the Indian Science Congress that the failure of the cotton seed in Andhra Pradesh in 1997 and 1998 should be investigated since Monsanto could have been using local seed companies to market bad seed in order to destroy the supply system. "The destruction of the seed supply and Monsanto's purchase of Indian seed companies would have ensured that Indian farmers had no option but to buy Monsanto's Bt cotton and in future Monsanto's terminator crops." The Indian farmers ain't taking this lying down and in 1998 the Karnatka farmers union occupied and burned down the three fields of GM cotton and 500 farmers occupied Cargill, the biotech multinational offices, throwing loads of their processing kit out of windows. They did loads of other actions too as part of 'Operation Cremate Monsanto' and hundreds of farmers and activists took part in the Intercontinental Caravan, which toured through Europe.

Vision 20/20: Short sighted

Vision 20/20 is a scheme to give large chunks of semi-arid Andhra Pradesh over to mass scale GM agro-industry. The area - with a population of 75 million - will see a reduction in farming labour as the area goes to mass scale farms, which could see 20 million rural people kicked off land. Farmers are to be encouraged to plant GM crops, including Bt cotton and vitamin A rice and a 600 sq km site in the so-called 'Genome Valley' is being set aside where biotechnology companies such as Monsanto will be invited to carry out trials.

The scheme is a hi-tech, export-orientated project funded by the World Bank and British aid money, and is being carried out by the International Food Policy Research Institute. Read their website (www.ifpri.org) and find out what their agenda is."The potential role of genetic engineering to assure food security in developing countries while maintaining acceptable biosafety is an important aspect of this work.". In September 2001 they had an international conference in Bonn promoting Vision 20/20 and the sponsors were - guess who - Aventis CropScience, Cargill, Syngenta and Novartis (Wot no Monsanto? - ed).

The long sighted scheme shifts production in the semi-arid area from traditional, sustainable staples such as millet and sorghum onto the more lucrative crop of rice - which would require three million more wells to be sunk in an area that suffers from crippling droughts. This 'vision' also includes soy bean crops with Monsanto poised to introduce a progression of GM strains.

On Monday 18th March Indian women farmers were in London to challenge British Government aid to the Vision 20/20 programme. This action opposed the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Chief Minister of AP and Monsanto, which will give the company free rein to plant GM crops throughout Andhra Pradesh. The findings of an AP Citizen's Jury were presented in the House of Commons which unsurprisingly describes another resource grab by TNCs, opened up by free trade arrangements, a displacement of people, and a privatisation and commandeering of traditional food crops (read the findings in full at www.iied.org).

To find out what you can do contact GAFF (Grassroots Action on Food and Farming) 01865 793 910 chapter7@tlio.demon.co.uk


Despite pressure from the Brazilian government and Monsanto, the moratorium on commercial growing of GM crops still remains in place. This is thanks to a strong independent judiciary that was set up to prevent another dictatorship, and has resulted in the country having some strong biodiversity laws.


At the beginning of the year two Canadian organic farmers from Saskatchwan launched a class-action suit to get an injunction which would stop Monsanto and Aventis from proceeding with tests of GM wheat. They are also seeking losses from the company for the contamination of their crops. The two farmers allege that contamination in the region has become so widespread it is almost impossible for growers to certify their products GM free. Thanks to genetic engineering, rapeseed has now become a noxious weed in Canada. The local organic farmers group said ".losing wheat to genetic contamination would devastate organic farming.our very future is at stake." Info: www.saskorganic.com.

In April 2001a judge ruled that a Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeiser, violated Monsanto's patent by "unknowingly and unwillingly growing genetically modified (GM) oil seed rape." He now faces a bill for $105,000 and after 40 years of saving seeds and developing his own strain has had to purchase new seed wasting a lifetime's work. (see SchNEWS 300) Under Canadian patent law, as in the US and many other industrialised countries, it is illegal for farmers to re-use patented seed, or to grow Monsanto's GM seed without signing a licensing agreement. If biotech bastards such as Monsanto get their way, every nation in the world will be forced to adopt patent laws that make seed saving illegal. Schmeiser is in the process of an appeal of this decision - find out the latest on the case at www.percyschmeiser.com


On 29th August 2001, police in anti-riot gear prevented activists from taking down three fields of experimental maize. After a series of daylight actions, which were watched but not disrupted by small numbers of cops, the Prime Minister publicly criticised the destruction of GM tests and urged activists to stop. Undeterred some 100 radical farmers from the union Confederation Paysanne and other groups arrived at a test site in Sigalens and were met by between 100 and 150 officers carrying riot shields and truncheons. The protesters placed their tools on the ground in front of the police, but said they would be back. "There is no question of having a confrontation. If we can't act today, we'll come back another day", one of the protest organisers said. A similar reception awaited the 100 or so activists who had planned to cut down two fields of maize near the village of Saint-Martin-la-Riviere, in west central France.

South Korea

In January a rally was held outside the Korean Food and Drug Association (KFDA) to demand that visiting U.S. trade officials stop pressuring South Korea into easing regulations on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). While visiting the KFDA U.S., trade officials were said to have requested that South Korean government ease labelling restrictions on imported GMO products by raising the adventitious threshold level to 5 percent from the current 3 percent. In the EU the GMO free level is 1 percent.

Sri Lanka

On April 10, 2001 the Sri Lankan government bravely but in place the world's toughest ban on the imports of all GE foods. Unfortunately under pressure from the World Trade Organisation the ban had been indefinitely postponed.


Farmers are rallying to oppose GM rice - their group UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternatives) stating that "Bangladesh farmers will resist it by any means, we want the farmers of Asia to take a united position against genetically engineered rice". Grassroots campaigns are fighting the misinformation which is helping spread the myth across Asia about Golden Rice being a 'wonder crop'.


Monsanto the evil biotech giants were found guilty in February this year of decades of pollution in the small town of Anniston, Alabama. The verdict proved that the river in the town had been being pumped with nasty chemicals PCB's, which have been linked to cancer. The decision will now open the door for massive claims for compensation against the company.

May 13-20th 2001 was National Biotechnology Week in the US, and in California over fifty activists were tear-gassed by riot police while planting their own beans and corn at Syngenta's HQ. Meanwhile trials of GM strawberries, tomatoes and onions by DNA Plant Technology Holdings were destroyed by Night-time Gardeners.

New Zealand

"The government has betrayed the majority of New Zealanders. They sold out to the GE lobby. That leaves the public no option but civil disobedience to protect our country from GE accidents and contamination." - Logan Petley Green Gloves anti-GM campaign group.

In March 1999 twelve people broke into a laboratory in an early morning raid and destroyed an experimental crop of rot-resistant toad-silkworm-potatoes and ruined Lincoln's Crop and Food Research Centre's NZ$200,000 project. This was the country's first major act of environmental sabotage in years.

The stakes are high because around 42 percent of New Zealand's exports involve food, and the pro-GM lobby have peddled a line about getting "left behind" in the global marketplace. Last year the Fonterra Co-operative Group - the dairy company which is also the country's largest transnational - said it would move its operations overseas if GM research didn't go ahead.

The pace of protest snowballed as the Government continued to ignore anti-GM campaigns. Last April a Research Centre was firebombed by a molotov cocktail. Just in case anyone misinterpreted the attack, a shed was graffitied with "No GE. Stop the tests," by a group called the Shadow Ministry for the Environment.

In October 2001 over a hundred Maori GMO protesters and their families set out from the far north of the North Island for a month-long march to parliament in Wellington. The day they arrived Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark announced that there would be GM field trials, and activists unveiled plans to stop it including 3000 who signed up to undertake non-violent direct action against genetically engineered crops. A month later forestry giant Carter Holt Harvey abandoned a field test for genetically modified pine trees and sheep.

In the latest big action this January, over 1000 genetically engineered potatoes were destroyed at the same Crop and Food Research complex that was first targeted by activists.

For the full stories and to keep up-to-date with the latest GM news around the world check out www.connectotel.com/gmfood

See also www.geneticsaction.org.uk www.genewatch.org