Food activists, scientists, and representatives from governments and corporations around the world will begin meeting in Johannesburg on Monday, April 7th, to finalize a report on how the world can tackle the deeply interrelated issues of hunger, poverty, power, and global agriculture.
But global agribusinesses Monsanto, Syngenta, and BASF have refused to participate. They complained recently that genetic modification of agriculture was under-valued by the 4,000 scientists and experts working on the report, and that the report should not have stated that biotechnology in agriculture poses risks.
The United Nations’ International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) is intended to do for agriculture what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did for global warming: draw attention to a major issue and map out a plan for governments and organizations to move forward on. The final report is expected to emphasize the importance of small-scale farmers and indigenous groups to agriculture.
Robert Watson, the IAASTD’s secretariat, has said he is disappointed that the biotech companies have withdrawn from the project. “Our goal was to have them included,” he told The Guardian newspaper. “We wanted a multi-stakeholder group that included everyone, that was absolutely essential.”
Now there is a risk that the lack of participation may threaten agreement on the final report. Grassroots International has joined 72 other civil society organizations in signing a letter to Watson, urging him to defend the report and work for consensus to adopt it in Johannesburg.