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Legislative activity heats up

May 2009

Both the House and Senate are considering legislation with tremendous implications for farmers and agriculture across the globe. On the Senate side, the Global Food Security Bill, S.384 (also known as the Casey-Lugar Bill), calls for the United States to play a leadership role in implementing questionable food production strategies in developing countries. The bill mandates that massive investments in foreign assistance for agriculture shall include genetically engineered (GE) technologies. However, numerous studies and reports tell otherwise and warn of the dangers posed by GE technolgies, including soil erosion, cross-breeding, lower long-term yields and other environmental hazards.

Below is an action alert prepared by the Center for Food Safety. Please take a moment to read it and take action! And stay tuned for an action link from Grassroots International soon.

Tell Congress Not to Force GE Crops on Other Countries

An Action Alert from the Center for Food Safety

An effort to fight global poverty and hunger may become a Trojan horse to force genetically engineered crops on countries and farmers that do not want them. In the Senate, Senators Bob Casey (D-Penn.) and Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) introduced the Global Food Security Act, which increases funding for agricultural research in the developing world, and a companion bill in the House of Representatives is expected to be introduced soon. While the bill recognizes the desperate need to increase funding for agricultural development and food security, it also requires that foreign agricultural development aid include investment in genetically engineered (GE) crops.

Most developing countries, especially in Africa, do not allow genetically engineered crops to be commercially grown, but that’s changing with international pressure.  Biotech companies have mounted a misinformation campaign to sell themselves and their products as “humanitarian.”  But, genetically engineered crops are not a solution to world hunger.  To date, not a single GE crop released for commercial growing has increased yield potential or elevated nutritional levels.  In reality, fully 85% of all GE crops globally are engineered to survive spraying with chemical weedkillers.  These chemical-dependent GE crops have sharply increased overall use of pesticides and are best-suited to large growers seeking to reduce labor needs for weed control, not poor farmers anxious to produce more to feed their families.

A recent report by the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth found that agricultural biotechnology feeds the profits of biotech companies – not the poor. The report’s findings support the United Nations’ assessment of world agriculture released in a report in 2008, which concluded that GE crops have little potential to alleviate poverty and hunger in the world, and instead recommended low-cost, low-input agroecological farming methods.

The solutions for food security through agricultural development lie in promoting agroecological practices that not only increase agricultural productivity, but are affordable and accessible to small-scale developing world farmers.   As Ben Burkett, an African American farmer from Mississippi and President of the National Family Farm Coalition who has visited Africa many times, said in a recent article, “More expensive genetically modified seeds, pesticides and chemical-intensive practices won’t help the hungry and will only allow more profits and control for seed companies like Monsanto and Syngenta.”

Food aid and development assistance should never be pre-conditioned on accepting unwanted and ineffective genetically engineered crops. Tell Congress to keep genetic engineering out of any food aid and agricultural research legislation.

SAMPLE LETTER to your senators

Subject: Keep genetic engineering out of food aid and agricultural research legislation

Dear Senator,

I urge you to oppose any food aid or agricultural development aid legislation that promotes genetic engineering, or that mandates its development or use, such as the Global Food Security Act of 2009 (S. 384), Section 202, subsection number 4. This provision would require that agricultural research include “research on biotechnological advances, including genetically modified technology.”

The food crisis makes clear how vital it is that we increase our foreign assistance funding to help the world’s poor – primarily small farmers – become more productive and capable of feeding their families and communities. However, as Congress examines the ways to do so, genetically modified (GM) crops should not be mandated as part of that funding. Thus far, GM crops have failed to offer food security or agricultural development assistance in developing countries throughout the world. Currently 85% of all GM crops are engineered for pesticide tolerance. These chemical-dependent crops have sharply increased overall use of pesticides and are best-suited to large growers seeking to reduce labor needs for weed control, not poor farmers striving to produce more to feed their families. In addition, GM seeds are two to four-fold more expensive than conventional seeds, well beyond the means of many developing country farmers. Not a single GM crop commercially available offers nutritional benefits, enhanced yield potential, drought-tolerance, or other attractive sounding traits often touted in the media. Thus, it is not surprising that many developing countries do not allow the commercial growing of GM crops, particularly in Africa, where only two countries allow them.

Fortunately, much more effective and affordable solutions already exist – only they desperately require additional funding to spread their benefits to more farmers. In fact, a comprehensive assessment sponsored by the United Nations and the World Bank concluded in 2008 that while such agroecological techniques hold tremendous promise, GM crops have little potential to alleviate poverty and hunger in the world.

Farmers and governments in the developing world have the right to make their own choices about GM crops. Food aid and development assistance should never be pre-conditioned on acceptance of unwanted, expensive, and ineffective technology. Instead, our legislative efforts to increase food security and agricultural development assistance should be based on the proven agroecological methods already being promoted by the international community and the United Nations.

Please oppose Section 202, subsection number 4 of the Global Food Security Act (S. 384) which would force genetically engineered crops on the developing world.


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