"The idealism of the European GM protesters is admirable, but for all their black-and-white certainty about what is to be avoided, they have not yet articulated an environment-friendly program for feeding the billions of people on the planet, or the billions more who are on the way." - Chet Raymo, "Modification part of balanced chain", Boston Globe, 9/4/2001
GREENPEACE CALLS FOR REAL SOLUTIONS IN AGRICULTURE - NOT 'PIE IN THE SKY' IDEAS
3 September 2001
Bonn/London - Greenpeace today accused the world's governments of failing to fulfil their commitment to reduce world hunger (1) while ignoring the methods of agriculture that are environmentally sound and proven. The organisation claimed that nutritious, high-yielding and often naturally pest-controlled crops are already being produced, but that the commercial power and political influence of the genetic engineering (GE) industry is preventing proper investment in these preferred solutions.
A study commissioned by Greenpeace and a development organisation, Bread for the World, found 208 examples of sustainable agricultural projects at work in 52 developing countries (2). This study was presented on the eve of an international conference "Sustainable Food Security for All by 2020" organised by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) this week in Bonn (3). The projects in the study show how hunger and poverty can be overcome by sustainable agriculture without genetic engineering threatening biodiversity, eroding the soil base, polluting water or endangering human health.
"Rather than supporting existing environmentally friendly practices, governments are acting as if they have delegated their responsibility to feed the world to the GE industry, which is full of 'pie in the sky' ideas and gives no credit to what is literally already on the ground. The real solutions are out there, but desperately lack funding and promotion, because it is in the GE industry's interest to keep it that way. If the level of investment that we see for GE today was made available to proven sustainable methods of production and researching alternatives, it would go a long way to address problems of agriculture in developing countries," said Lorenz Petersen, Genetic Engineering Campaigner for Greenpeace.
Greenpeace called on world governments to take their commitment to achieve food security for all seriously and reverse the current trend of declining assistance to developing countries (4). The organisation demanded independent public research and promotion of sustainable agricultural models - especially those looking at the needs of small-scale farmers who will suffer the most if the sell-out to GE industry continues.
"Sustainable agriculture is not a luxury but a necessity and it provides the most effective means to combat hunger. We should solve problems, not create new ones. Genetic engineering puts people and their environment at further risk in countries that do not have the capacity to deal with the problems that it may bring," Petersen added.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: In Bonn, Lorenz Petersen, Genetic Engineering Campaigner, Mob: +49-171-8780813; Greenpeace Germany, Ulrike Brendel, Mob: +49 171 8780831; Greenpeace International Press Office, Teresa Merilainen, Tel: +31205236637
Photos of sustainable agricultural projects available from Greenpeace International Picture Desk, John Novis, Tel: +31205249580 or Mob: +31653819121
For more information: http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng/structur/food.htm Greenpeace's Genetic Engineering web site.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
(1) Representatives of 186 countries met in Rome in November 1996 and committed themselves to the time-bound, monitorable, yet modest goal of halving hunger by 2015: "We pledge our political will and our common and national commitment to achieving food security for all and to an ongoing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their present level no later than 2015." http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng/reports/food/emptypromises.pdf
Empty Promises - The "Rome Declaration on World Food Security" in 1996 and today's realities , Greenpeace International, August 2001 (pdf)
(2 http://www2.essex.ac.uk/ces/ResearchProgrammes/CESOccasionalPapers/SAFEr epSUBHEADS.htm
"Reducing Food Poverty with Sustainable Agriculture: A Summary of New Evidence" full report by Jules Pretty and Rachel Hine. http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng/reports/food/208recipes.pdf"> 208 Recipes Against Hunger - Success Stories for the Future of Agriculture Greenpeace International, August 2001 (pdf)
(3) The international conference on "Sustainable Food Security for All by 2020", organised by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in close collaboration with the German government and several other organisations from civil society and the private and public sectors takes place in Bonn on September 4- 6, 2001. The conference will address the emerging concerns of how to fulfil the goal declared by the World Food Summit in 1996.
(4) Official Development Assistance has decreased during the 1990s from 0.33% to 0.25% of the Gross National Product of OECD Countries, to the detriment of the majority of the developing countries, especially the least developed countries in Africa which receive almost no private inflows.
"Low-tech 'sustainable agriculture,' shunning chemicals in favour of natural pest control and fertiliser, is pushing up crop yields on poor farms across the world, often by 70 per cent or more... The findings will make sobering reading for people convinced that only genetically modified crops can feed the planet's hungry in the 21st century... A new science-based revolution is gaining strength built on real research into what works best on the small farms where a billion or more of the world's hungry live and work... It is time for the major agricultural research centres and their funding agencies to join the revolution." New Scientist editorial, February 3, 2001
"I don't think any of us would disagree that, if an alternative exists to a GE solution, it's to be preferred" Mr Hodson QC acting on behalf of the Life Sciences Network at the New Zealand Royal Commission on Genetic Modification February 8, 2001