Statement of Africa-US Food Sovereignty Strategy Summit

On Oct 10-14, 2014 Community Alliance for Global Justice/AGRA Watch invited African leaders from six nations representing regional and continent-wide networks to Seattle to meet with leaders from over a dozen US organizations as part of the Africa-US Food Sovereignty Strategy Summit. The aim of the Summit was to promote farmer-led solutions to hunger and climate crises, share research, develop strategies and explore ways to protect communities faced with the consequences of industrial agriculture as promoted by the Gates Foundation.

On October 12th, summit participants took part in a major public event at Town Hall Seattle to voice their concerns.

See pictures and video of the event.


Statement of the African and U.S. Food Sovereignty Summit
Seattle, Washington October 13, 2014

We are brought together by a shared belief in just, sustainable and equitable food for all. We share a concern over the dangerous loss of agricultural biodiversity and of the loss of dignified and viable livelihoods in the countryside.

In great appreciation of the wisdom we each shared coming from our diverse cultures, struggles and experiences that are all a reflection of our shared humanity:

We stand together against the corporate control of our food systems, the lack of accountability of global institutions like the G8 New Alliance For Food Security and Nutrition, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), the United States (US) government’s Feed the Future Initiative, the Grow Africa Partnership, the Gates Foundation and its Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and others, that are forcing their policies and institutions upon the farmers of the world to open up markets and create spaces for multinationals to secure profits; against the monopolization of our seeds that criminalizes the historical farm practices of saving, sharing, selling and exchanging seeds; against the displacement and dispossession of small-scale farm producers and workers from their lands; against the new Green Revolution, the global Free Trade Agreements, “climate-smart agriculture” and “sustainable intensification”.

We pledge solidarity with the struggles of each of our organizations and with the global food sovereignty movement, and will work in mutual support to amplify the voices of the people on the ground fighting for food sovereignty, share information with the general public about food sovereignty and agro-ecology, and expose the myths underlying the false idea that corporate agriculture is necessary to “feed the world.”

The undersigned,

African Centre for Biosafety

Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)

Community Alliance for Global Justice/AGRA Watch

Community to Community Development

Family Farm Defenders

Friends of the Earth—Africa

Food & Water Watch

Food First

Grassroots International

Growth Partners Africa

International Development Exchange (IDEX)

Kenya Food Rights Alliance (KeFRA)

National Family Farm Coalition

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)

Right to Agrarian Reform for Food Sovereignty Campaign

Rural Coalition

Rural Women’s Assembly (Southern Africa)

Surplus People Project

WhyHunger

Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF)


Africa-US Food Sovereignty Strategy Summit in the News

Crosscut recently published an article discussing The Gates Foundation’s support of AGRA. Daniel Maingi, Kenyan food activist, Director of Growth Partners Africa, and one of the many participants in this weekend’s Africa-US Food Sovereignty Strategy Summit, was featured in the piece, voicing his concerns about the new green revolution in Africa. Maingi notes that AGRA often works in tandem with USAID, the US agency charged with foreign economic development. AGRA Watch would like to point out that the current Administrator of USAID, Dr. Rajiv Shah, previously served as the director of agricultural development at the Gates Foundation. This interlocking power network is one that AGRA Watch continues to research.

Join us on Sunday to hear first-hand from African food leaders and farmers about how corporate “philanthropists” like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are working to transform African small-holder agriculture into American-style industrial agri-business, with all its problems. Come and learn about the struggle for global food sovereignty and how we can work in solidarity to change these alarming trends.

Click here for more details about the event!


Socioeconomic Considerations and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a multilateral treaty, which addresses issues involving the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits that arise from the use of genetic resources. It entered into force in 1993. Included in its text is provision 19-3, which states that the parties of the convention shall consider the need for a protocol setting out procedures for transferring, handling and using any GMOs, which may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. In 1995, two years after the CBD entered into force, the parties concluded that such a protocol was necessary, and after 7 years of negotiation, The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), an effort to satisfy this need, entered into force in 2003. The CPB attempts to protect biological diversity and human health from the risks associated with the transboundary movement, including importation, of genetically modified organisms. It embodies the precautionary principle in its governance of the transboundary movements of GE organisms and in establishing a procedure that allows countries to make informed decisions on whether or not to import GMOs.

As discussed in a recent Third World Network briefing, among the highly debated issues during the negotiation of the CPB was whether or not to include socioeconomic considerations in the assessments of the importing country. It was decided that socioeconomic considerations could be included, but whether it is mandatory to consider socioeconomic effects is still debated. A press release from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which outlines recent decisions to advance the implementation of the CPB, briefly discusses the lack of accord on this subject, and mentions the United Nations’ decision to “re-convene a group of experts to further develop clarity on this issue and to develop an outline for guidance on this subject.”

Although the CPB, and its parent treaty, the CBD both indicate the importance of considering socioeconomic consequences regarding GMOs, in the US, the USDA, FDA, and EPA do not consider any socioeconomic impacts, except for some health considerations under very limited circumstances. AGRA Watch feels strongly that all potential socioeconomic impacts should be considered in the production, import and export of all GMOs.


Vandana Shiva and The New Yorker

The New Yorker recently published an article entitled “Seeds of Doubt,” written by Michael Specter, which attempts to debunk Vandana Shiva’s stance on the use of GM seeds. Shiva is outspoken in her claims that the use of GM seed increases farmer debt and environmental degradation, and contributes to poverty, hunger, and suicide. In responding to Specter’s article, she did not hesitate to assert that the piece is merely a new and more sophisticated approach to the propaganda machine of the pro-GMO lobby. The exchange has received much attention and has been widely circulated around the Internet. Our colleagues at the Center for Food Safety critiqued Specter’s piece, debunking the myths about GE crops that Specter used as ammunition against Shiva throughout his article. AGRA Watch certainly agrees with the CFS and Shiva and feels that Specter is often wide of the mark in his piece.


Africa-US Food Sovereignty Strategy Summit – It’s here!

Join us for public events Sunday October 12

After many years of careful planning, we are proud to be hosting the Africa-US Food Sovereignty Strategy Summit in Seattle Oct 10-14!  Ten African leaders are coming to Seattle to meet with AGRA Watch and leaders from over a dozen US organizations – (see who will participate in meeting).  To find out how you can support these efforts as a volunteer or host, please contact us!

The Global Struggle for Food Sovereignty: A Discussion with  African Food Leaders & Farmers

Sunday, October 12

5pm Reception, 7pm Panel

Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave

Hosted by Community Alliance for Global Justice/AGRA Watch

Simultaneous interpretation provided in American Sign Language. Induction Loop for hard of hearing also available at Town Hall.

African farmers are fighting for “food sovereignty,” the right of all people everywhere to control their food systems. You are invited to hear first-hand from African food leaders and farmers about how corporate “philanthropists” like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are working to transform African small-holder agriculture into American-style industrial agri-business, with all its problems. Join us for a reception and a panel discussion to learn about the struggle for global food sovereignty and how we can work in solidarity to change these alarming trends.

5pm Pre-Event Reception: Tickets $15-$25

Join us for a Reception welcoming Food Sovereignty leaders from Africa & the US to Seattle. Food, beverage and entrance to main event included with purchase of ticket. Beer and wine will be available for sale. Buy tickets here, and at the door.

7pm- Moderated Panel with African Food Sovereignty Leaders 

$5 Suggested Donation

Panel Speakers:

The Africa-US Food Sovereignty Strategy Summit has been organized in collaboration with the following organizations:

African Centre for Biosafety (South Africa), Food First, Grassroots International, IDEX-International Development Exchange, Kenya Food Rights Alliance, National Family Farm Coalition, Pesticide Action Network North America – PANNA, We are the Solution (Burkina Faso), WhyHunger

Share this event! Link to Facebook event here.

If your organization can Co-Sponsor and help us spread the word via social media, flyers, websites etc, please contact us!

For more information, please contact Community Alliance for Global Justice/AGRA Watch: agrawatch@seattleglobaljustice.org 206-405-4600


Filling in the Gaps on the NRC Panel Investigating GE Crops

The National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council recently announced the proposed members of a committee that will carry out a study of the history of GE crops and their supposed negative and positive effects on farmers around the world. Unfortunately, the proposed committee lacks the expertise and diversity necessary to carry out such a study. Phil Bereano, a founding member of AGRA Watch, along with 63 other scientists and researchers from around the world have publicly questioned the NRC’s selection of committee members, and the proposed committee’s ability to provide objective, independent, and nonpartisan credible advice to U.S. policy-makers and others.

A Letter sent to the NRC on behalf of this group highlights the gaps in expertise and lack of diversity represented on the proposed committee. The group feels that based on the tasks of the study, and the complexity of the effects that GE crops have on farmers and rural populations, it is clear that the committee needs experts from a wide range of fields, almost most importantly from the social sciences. The group urges that it should include experts on the history of agri-food systems, health, anthropology and development, political economy, and it should include women and actual farmers. However, of the 19 members of the proposed committee, only one member has expertise in the social sciences, few have experience in occupational and community health, few have experience working in international contexts, zero are farmers, and only one is a woman. The vast majority of proposed members are experts in plants on the cellular or molecular level, some of whom come from institutions and agencies that promote technological approaches to achieving food security. The group finds the lack of expertise, and the potential for bias within the committee unacceptable, and urges the NRC to diversify it.

A second letter from the group of concerned scientists and researchers provides a list of experts who they say can contribute the expertise and diversity that the committee lacks. They encourage the NRC to invite these experts to present at the first public meeting and to join the committee.

The first public meeting of this study committee will be on September 15-16, click here to register to attend or view the webcast.


“Stop the Spread of Transgenes”

Image courtesy of ETC Group

While momentum against GMOs builds throughout the global North, the Gates Foundation, profit driven multinational corporations like Monsanto, and a number of governments are setting the stage for the widespread adoption of industrial agriculture and the use of GMO seeds in different parts of Africa. As AGRA Watch and its partners are aware, commercial agricultural biotechnology and GMO seeds will have detrimental effects to smallholder famers and biodiversity.

In response to these pressures, an international coalition of NGOs recently called for the parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Cartagena Protocol to implement binding regulations that would stop the spread of genetically engineered seeds. A primary concern for the coalition of NGOs, and the rest of the anti-GMO movement, is transgene flow and its effects on native crop varieties. In affecting the dynamics of wild and native varieties, transgene flow will have detrimental effects on smallholder farmers, who rely on their understanding of these dynamics to sustainably produce healthy and culturally appropriate food.

Learn more about the beginnings of an international call to stop the spread of genetically engineered organisms, and find contact information of activists who can help your organization join in this effort at stop-the-spread-of-trangenes.org.


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