The World Food Prize has been challenged with protests, petitions signed by hundreds of thousands, counter meetings, and even an alternative prize.
1. Hundreds of Thousands Reject World Food Prize Sham
2. Indigestion at the World Food Prize!
3. And the World Food Prize Goes to . . . Monsanto?
1.Hundreds of Thousands Reject World Food Prize Sham
Center for Food Safety, October 17 2013
Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS), Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), SumOfUs.org, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) delivered petitions signed by over 345,000 people admonishing the World Food Prize—a prize dedicated to furthering a “nutritious and sustainable food supply”—for awarding this year’s Prize to top executives from agrichemical giants Monsanto and Syngenta. The signatures were delivered to the World Food Prize headquarters by George Naylor, CFS Board Member, member of Iowa CCI, and Iowa corn and soybean farmer; and members of Pesticide Action Network and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. A group of farmers from Iowa and Haiti accompanied the representatives to deliver the petitions. The petition delivery kicked off a four hour vigil in front of the World Food Prize Foundation headquarters. The prize, awarded in Iowa today, is part of the annual World Food Day celebrations.
“With this award, the World Food Prize is perpetuating the false notion that genetically engineered crops are a solution to world hunger and malnutrition. This kind of biotech propaganda obscures the huge potential of low-cost agricultural techniques that actually increase food production and alleviate hunger. Awarding the World Food Prize to these biotech giants only serves to divert attention from these truly ‘nutritious and sustainable’ approaches,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety.
The World Food Prize is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of agriculture,” where individuals around the globe ostensibly doing the important work of increasing food safety and security are recognized. In its own words, the Prize “emphasizes the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people.”
"Giving the World Food Prize to Monsanto legitimizes the sort of rampant genetic modification Monsanto pioneered, and helps validate a ruthless business model that impoverishes farmers and monopolizes our food," said SumOfUs.org Campaign Manager Oliver Moldenhauer. "If that wasn't baffling enough, the founder of Syngenta will also be awarded the Prize, the same biotech giant joining Bayer in suing Europe to keep selling bee-killing pesticides."
Contrary to the biotech industry myth the World Food Prize is perpetuating, GE crops do not create more food, more access to food, or more nutritious food, and instead actually endanger food security. As far back as 1998, African scientists representing many of the nations affected by poverty and hunger warned that GE crops would undermine the nations’ capacities to feed themselves by destroying established diversity, local knowledge and sustainable agricultural systems, despite a manipulative Monsanto ad campaign featuring photos of African children and the subtitle “Let the harvest begin.”
"The World Food Prize could and should be an inspiring beacon drawing attention to the injustice of global hunger in an age of plenty, and celebrating those who fight for real solutions," said Margaret Reeves at Pesticide Action Network. "Instead, the World Food Prize has chosen to honor chemical company representatives for a technology that has consistently failed to deliver on promises of increased yields and improved nutrition."
According to a joint project between the United Nations and the World Bank, the high cost of GE seeds and chemicals along with uncertain crop yields make GE crops a poor choice for farmers, particularly in the developing world.
“As a farmer, I’m no stranger to the marketing of biotech companies like Monsanto. First they said using Roundup Ready crops would decrease the amount of chemicals needed to grow them. Of course that turned out to be false,” said George Naylor, an Iowa corn and soybean farmer and CFS board member. “They would like us to believe that the way to run agriculture is to buy their GE seeds, buy their chemicals and just spray the land year after year without thinking about what it’s doing to our landscape, to our environment.”
The vigil and delivery of the 347,000 petition signatures comes just hours before the awards ceremony, where demonstrations are expected.
"GMOs and factory farms are destroying the state of Iowa, independent family farmers, and the planet, and we need to bust up big ag and empower women, immigrant, and young farmers if we really want to solve world hunger," said Larry Ginter, a farmer and a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement from Rhodes, Iowa.
More about the organisers:
Doug Hertzler, ActionAid USA, October 18 2013
The World Food Prize Foundation, in Iowa holds a yearly celebration of the power players in agribusiness and international development. This year the foundation decided to honor two of its corporate sponsors, Monsanto and Syngenta, by choosing executives and scientists who helped them genetically modify crops, which now dominate North American agriculture. These crops are still restricted in much of the World due to concerns about environmental, social, and economic impacts.
On October 16, the night before the foundation honored its sponsors, ActionAid USA and partners Njoki Njehu from Kenya and Timothy Wise, researcher at Tufts University joined hundreds of Iowans who rallied at First Methodist Church in Des Moines. Iowa farmer Larry Ginter and populist Jim Hightower, buoyed the “Occupy the World Food Prize” crowd with humor and expressed their outrage at the harm caused to rural communities by technologies and marketing practices which over time have reduced the number of farmers and caused businesses to be boarded up in many small towns.
Special guest speaker Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, emphasized the importance of right relationships to the earth and natural resources, “when there is no clarity about our relation to the land there will be trouble … we have not fashioned justice.” Turkson was in town because he had been invited speak at the World Food Prize Luncheon the next day, and the protest movement had invited him to attend their rally as well.
The next day at the World Food Prize “Borlaug Dialogues,” the panelists included Tony Blair and the President of Iceland, and a lot of other powerful people, and the dialogue was mostly comprised of platitudes about hunger, the need for corporate investment, and the need to help smallholder farmers through science. To be sure some panelists made good points and counterpoints, but no one said anything that would really make anyone uncomfortable.
Next came lunch, sponsored by the (genetically modified) soybean lobby. On the menu was soybean oil salad dressing, soy tofu, soy tempeh, chicken (fed with soybeans), and soymilk parfait. They may have been trying to send a message to lunchtime speaker, Cardinal Turkson. He began by saying “I don’t want anyone to get indigestion,” but proceeded cautiously and slowly to make a lot of the biotech industry in the room rather uncomfortable.
The Cardinal started out by explaining the Vatican’s support for genetic research, and lauding scientists for their efforts. But he proceeded to speak of the uncertainty of the impact of biotech and the need for ethics and erring on the side of caution. He pointed out the destructive record of industrial agriculture to the environment, and the loss of biodiversity. He called for social justice, restraint on profiteering and speculation at the expense of those are most vulnerable. With regard to the reality of GMOs already in use, he emphasized the need for labeling to protect human freedom to choose. Finally he called for taking social justice seriously and the need for the World Food Prize to engage in dialogue with the Occupy the World Food Prize movement.
3. And the World Food Prize Goes to . . . Monsanto?
COLIN KINNIBURGH, In These Times, October 18 2013
This was the message uniting protesters in over four hundred cities around the world last Saturday as they took part in the second global March on Monsanto. Spread out across more than fifty countries, the protests were mostly coordinated by local groups and even individuals, with a minimum of centralized planning. Their common appeal is testament to growing discontent with a food system that is marginalizing small farmers and laying waste to the most elemental principles of sustainability while enriching an elite few.
Word of this discontent seems not to have reached policy elites, however, who yesterday awarded this year’s World Food Prize to scientists from Monsanto and Syngenta—the biotechnology giants now infamous for their patented cocktails of genetically modified (GM) seeds, pesticides, and herbicides—precisely for their “pioneering” work in GMO research and advocacy.
It is not every day that a veteran civil rights activist shares the stage with a peasant organizer from south India, or that you hear the term “neoliberalism” repudiated in four different languages. But these are the moments when international solidarity becomes more than a catchphrase and takes palpable form. Perhaps Rosnel Jean-Baptiste, of Haiti’s Tet Kole, put it best: “The prize will act like a serum in our veins.”
As the laureates gathered in Des Moines, Iowa, food justice advocates from a half-dozen countries also came together in New York to register their dissent against the biotech industry’s pat on the back. At an alternative ceremony on Tuesday, they gathered to honor the winners of the fifth annual Food Sovereignty Prize, a program conceived by the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) as a direct challenge to the World Food Prize. The mainstream prize was first awarded in 1987 to the Indian scientist credited with leading his country’s “Green Revolution,” which throughout the 1960s and 1970s promoted the cultivation of hybrid crops coupled with the heavy use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The “revolution” increased food production, but critics say that it also left small farmers dependent on expensive and unsustainable technologies, trapping many in a cycle of debt. By contrast, the Food Sovereignty Prize, first awarded by the USFSA in 2009, celebrates movements that are restoring control of their food systems to local communities through agroecology.
The concept of food sovereignty itself is rooted in a social movement vision that draws together struggles for economic equality, women’s rights, racial justice, and, most fundamentally, democracy. In asserting “the right of people to determine their own food and agriculture policies,” the USFSA says:
"Food sovereignty goes well beyond ensuring that people have enough food to meet their physical needs. It asserts that people must reclaim their power in the food system by rebuilding the relationships between people and the land, and between food providers and those who eat."
It is a vision that has already begun to lay the foundations for mass movements in the global South—for example, in Brazil, where the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) or Landless Workers Movement comprises an estimated 1.5 million members who fight for agrarian reform primarily by occupying large and often uncultivated latifundios (estates). (The MST won the Food Sovereignty Prize in 2011, and a few of its members attended the 2013 ceremony as well.)
But the principle of food sovereignty is also gaining traction among marginalized communities in the United States and other parts of the global North—both in neglected city neighborhoods and in farming communities. As he opened the 2013 Food Sovereignty Prize ceremony at New York’s Cooper Union, master of ceremonies Blain Snipstal—a young farmer from the Baltimore area who organizes with La Via Campesina and the Southeastern African-American Farmers Organic Network—put the concept of food sovereignty into context.
“We’re all being affected by this system of neoliberal capitalism . . . and we must organize in our aspirations, in our visions, and in our hearts to begin to create a world we can all thrive in,” Snipstal said. Over the course of the night, he went on to introduce activists facing challenges that ranged from the crippling effects of austerity in Spain to caste discrimination in south India.
The evening’s keynote speaker, Shirley Sherrod, grounded these disparate struggles in a common vision of social change. Sherrod is perhaps best known today for a controversy over false allegations of discrimination that led her to resign from her position as the USDA’s Georgia State Director of Rural Development in 2010. As Snipstal reminded the audience, however, Sherrod’s struggle began long before her appointment to the USDA.
"Ms. Shirley was born in Baker County, Georgia, in November of 1947 to Hosie and Grace Miller. In 1965, when she was seventeen years old, her father, a deacon at the local Baptist church, was shot to death by a white farmer, reportedly over a dispute about livestock. No charges were returned against the shooter by an all-white grand jury."
The year of her father’s death, Sherrod began organizing with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), before going on to pioneer a large-scale black-owned farming cooperative along with her husband Charles. Looking back at her participation in the civil rights movement, she remembered, “some of us were murdered. . . . Some of us were beaten.”
And yet the nonviolent resolve championed by leaders like Martin Luther King led to meaningful change. The food sovereignty movement has witnessed its share of violence as well: In Brazil alone, the murder of land rights activist Cicero Guedes last January is only the most recent in a series of assassinations targeting rural organizers. But the Food Sovereignty Prize aims to remind us that the fight for a democratic food system has also seen its share of victories.
Indeed, the achievements of the four groups honored by this year’s Food Sovereignty Prize—from Haiti, Mali, the Basque country, and south India—are testament to fierce organizing even in the direst of conditions. Top honors for the 2013 Prize went to a group of four peasant organizations from Haiti, known collectively as the G4/Dessalines Brigade and together representing some quarter of a million Haitians. Formed in 2007 when Haiti's four major peasant groups—Tet Kole, the Peasant Movement of Papaye, the National Congress of Papaye Peasant Movements, and the Regional Coordination of Organizations of the South East Region—joined as a coalition, the G4 has become a key collective force in Haiti’s ongoing recovery from “not just an environmental earthquake, but a political and social one,” as Snipstal put it. Both before and since the 2010 earthquake, the G4 has vocally resisted the neoliberal tide—most notably by rejecting Monsanto’s donation of 475 tons of seed in June 2010, in a sharp act of defiance against the greater wave of irresponsible, hollow and in many cases predatory aid efforts that have swept their country. Meanwhile, through La Via Campesina, the G4 has initiated learning exchanges with South American farmers, inviting experts from countries like Brazil to the Haitian countryside to train local farmers in seed saving and agroecology techniques.
For all the exceptional challenges facing Haiti—not least the fact it remains both the poorest and the most unequal country in the Americas, with some 80 percent of the population living on less than $2 per day, over half the population scraping by on less than $1, and the top 1 percent controlling 50 percent of the country’s wealth—the Food Sovereignty Prize ceremony underscored more similarities than differences between the conditions its honorees were up against.