In Des Moines Iowa last week, in a stunning example of irony three genetic engineers were given the World Food Prize. The award winners are major developers of the now 20-year-old science and technology behind genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a highly contentious and potentially hazardous substitute for age-old agricultural knowledge and technology. By presenting representatives from Monsanto and Syngenta with the World Food Prize, its sponsors are attempting to elevate the status of GMOs and lend credence to the [false] argument that we need GMOs to feed the world’s burgeoning population. The truth is that most of the GMOs grown today are for U.S. soybean and corn production most of which are in turn used for biofuels. Meanwhile, there is already enough food produced on the planet to feed 10 billion people (a full one billion more than the dizzying number the global population will reach by 2050). Yet people today are going hungry every day. GMOs have not helped them now and they will not help in the future. The cause of hunger is poverty, not food supply.
Last week was a week of action protesting the World Food Prize and Monsanto. Protests happened in Des Moines, where the corporate awards were given, with numerous other events across the US and the world. Events were organized by Occupy the World Food Prize, the National Family Farm Coalition, the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, and many others. The week kicked off with a March Against Monsanto from Des Moines City Hall to the World Food Prize Building. On Wednesday protesters gathered at the World Food Prize ceremony for a rally, press conference and speeches by the recipients of the Food Sovereignty Prize, as well as former Texas Agricultural Secretary Jim Hightower. Hightower described the protests as “an upchuck rebellion by the good food movement against corporate agriculture.” Last week’s protests and the Food Sovereignty Prize are expressions of a growing global struggle against Monsanto and an increasingly interconnected movement for food sovereignty. In stark contrast to the winners of the World Food Prize, last Tuesday peasant organizations that offer on-the-ground solutions to the problem of hunger were awarded the Food Sovereignty Prize. Awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, the Food Sovereignty Prize celebrates viable real-world alternatives to the corporate, industrial model promoted by the corporate-driven World Food Prize. The winners of the award this year include Grassroots International’s partners the Haitian G4 coalition and the Dessalines Brigade/Via Campesina Haiti and South America. This year’s honorable mentions went to the National Coordination of Peasant Organizations from Mali, The Basque Country Farmers Union from the Basque Region in Spain, and the Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective from India. Rosnel Jean-Baptiste of the Haitian Group of 4 (which more accurately translates from Kreyol as “Four Eyes Meet”) said in his speech at the awards ceremony, “This prize is going to act like a serum in our veins so that these 4 organizations can work together and combat the transnational project that is being forced on us and to combat the free trade plans that are being foisted on us.”