EU Parliament Agrees With a Report that’s Highly Critical of the New Alliance for Food Security and NutritionPosted: July 25, 2016
March 2014, World Development Movement(WDM) campaigners(above, below) dressed as business people from Monsanto, Diageo, SABMiller and Unilever delivered a cake to the Department For International Development to “thank” the UK government for its support in allowing them to carve up Africa.
In early June the EU Parliament voted to accept a report put out by it’s development committee, in which The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, an initiative of the Obama administration and the G-8, including the Gates Foundation, was heavily criticized for being ineffective as a means for improving world development.
In their article, EU parliament slams aid scheme that uses big agribusiness to ‘feed Africa’, Global Justice Now applauded the decision, as does AGRA Watch, agreeing that the New Alliance is an initiative meant to benefit big agribusiness instead of helping small-scale farmers, and vulnerable communities. It’s past time that world governments are held responsible for the funding of such initiatives that serve their own business interests over those of farmers and local communities.
The EU has spent over one billion dollars implementing the New Alliance, and the UK Department for International Development(DFID) is responsible for sending $600 million to date.
The report detailed many negative consequences of the initiative, and even called some of them “unintended”, although it suggested that the New Alliance served as “little more than a means of promotion for the companies involved and a chance to increase their influence in policy debates.”
Pushing Pro-Business Policy Change by Funding a Pro-Business Ratings System
Bill Gates and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at a live panel discussion titled, “A New Vision for Financing Development with Bill Gates.” Photo credit: The World Bank
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation(BMGF) is a major donor to a World Bank affiliate known as Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA), a group that rates 40 developing countries on their policies that affect agriculture and agribusiness markets. The Oakland Institute, a partner of AGRA Watch, critiqued the connection in their April article, With a Little Help From Bill Gates, The World Bank Creates it’s Own Aid Conditionality. According to the EBA, it’s mission is “…identifying and monitoring regulations that negatively affect agriculture and agribusiness markets.” It frames these ratings as a way to encourage higher levels of food production, believing that this will combat world hunger, claiming that it’s encouraging countries to become more efficient, while “increasing market competitiveness and growth”. The Oakland Institute, as well as the UN disagree with this idea, understanding that hunger is not caused by insufficient food production.
The Oakland Institute previously reported that the EBA’s predecessor, the Doing Business index, caused an estimated 525 policy changes that had the intended effect of reducing or getting rid of developing countries’ regulations on protecting local economies, and environments.
During a panel at the World Bank’s Spring Meetings in Washington DC, Bill Gates pushed his view that the forward path for world development was to use the Gates Foundation’s expertise to encourage developing countries to adopt the “best practices” for business and investment, wielding the influence of development aid for the goal of “reforming the system”. Both Gates and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim ignored the views of the Global South, as expressed by their co-panelist, Raghuram Rajan, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, who called for development efforts to support the policies that developing countries actually want.
The Gates Foundation is contributing to a very problematic reality here. The EBA encourages reduced government oversight of agriculture, and agribusiness, and Gates’ economic power results in his being treated as an “expert” in the field of development aid, entitling him to disregard the objections of his colleague from the Global South. This power difference between the development agencies, the corporations and wealthy individuals benefiting from programs like the EBA, versus the very countries this development is supposed to assist, results in a system that continuously disempowers developing countries instead of empowering them as AGRA Watch believes it should.
The latest update in an ongoing pro-GMO campaign uses Nobel laureates to claim that Greenpeace is blocking the introduction of genetically modified Golden Rice into the market, while ignoring that globally, groups have criticized the legitimacy and effectiveness of this product. Respected commentators, Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham, expose the Golden Rice sham and the players behind the campaign.
Robinson’s post features University of Washington anthropologist and friend of CAGJ, Devon Peña, who breaks down why the laureates in question do not have the qualifications to push for this GM product.
Links to the articles can be found below:
February 15, 2016: Petition calling for halt of GMO banana human trials delivered to Gates Foundation and Iowa State University
Delivering over 57,000 signatures gathered through CREDO Action’s online petition, AGRA Watch and Iowa State University graduate students had a successful simultaneous action on Monday, Feb. 15 at ISU in Ames, Iowa, and at the Gates Foundation in Seattle. The petition asks the University and the Gates Foundation to cease supporting the transgenic banana study, including human feeding trials, and to change the trajectory for this type of research conducted at public universities. For more information, please read the press release.
In Seattle we delivered the petitions in the form of a prop to represent the 57,000+ signatures on the petition – a box filled with the 1600+ pages of names we received from CREDO – along with the actual file on a thumb-drive. We were pleased that, unlike at past demonstrations, Gates Foundation staff, including the head of media relations, met our delegation, and, while TV news cameras filmed, accepted our prop while we laid out our concerns.
We rallied outside the Foundation for an hour, 3 of us wearing banana costumes, and carrying signs while chanting, “Hey hey! Ho ho! Gates stop funding GMOs!” and “What do we want? Food Sovereignty! When do we want it? Now!”. We had hoped to share our concerns in-person before the action with Chris Elias, head of Global Development, however he was out of the country, and his staff did not propose an alternate meeting time.
Meanwhile in Iowa, 7 grad students and 1 community member gathered on the steps of Curtiss Hall, home of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, to take a group picture before heading inside the Dean’s office (Wendy Wintersteen), and dropping off the petition.
Proving that our work is not being ignored by the biotech industry, the action provoked a lot of interest from GMO advocates. Through what appears to be a coordinated response, multiple negative comments were made on the AGRA Watch Facebook page, and both CAGJ and AGRA Watch’s Facebook pages received several negative reviews this week. (You can counter these posts by reporting offensive ones, and offering a more favorable review if you feel inspired!) Kevin Folta, the University of Florida professor whose ties to Monsanto were recently revealed by the New York Times, wrote a post on his blog Sunday before the action, attacking the students involved in this campaign. Later, a well known troll created two offensive memes with AGRA Watch action photos, and filed a public-records request for one of the ISU students (who recently got her PhD and is teaching), which we consider to be an act of harassment.
-Iowa State Daily: Genetically Modified Bananas Spark Controversy
-Des Moines Register: ISU still plans GMO banana trial, despite controversy
-Iowa Farm Bureau: Hypocrisy of the anti-GMO crowd on display at Iowa State
-Iowa Meets Maui Blog: Privileged Students Protest Vitamin A Rich Bananas
-KIRO 7 TV, Seattle, WA interview with CAGJ Director Heather Day (starts at 17:08), and also King 5 TV (link not found).
-KCCI Des Moines TV News: Demonstration planned Monday at ISU over banana research
–Free Speech Radio News, New GM banana bound for Uganda set for human testing at Iowa State. Also aired by Green ACRE Radio and on KBCS 91.3 FM.
-KIRO Radio Jason Rantz Show, Bananas Descend on the Gates Foundation in Protest, interview with Phil Bereano and Chris Feise, AGRA Watch
-KHOI 89.1 Ames, IA Community Radio, DonnaLonna Kitchen Show interview with Gabrielle Roesch, ISU student, (begins at 4:33).
-KOPN 89.5 Columbia, MO Community Radio, Farm & Fiddle interview with Phil Bereano, AGRA Watch, and Rivka Fidel, ISU student (link will be posted).
-WRFG Radio Free Georgia-Atlanta, GA 89.3FM, Just Peace interview with Bill Aal, AGRA Watch and Gabrielle Roesch, ISU graduate student (link will be posted).
Ames Contact: Hannah Dankbar 515-867-1731
Seattle Contact: Heather Day 206-724-2243
Salk Institute Contact: David Schubert 858-453-4100 x1528
Over 57,000 Express Concern with Human Feeding Trials of GMO Bananas
Simultaneous demonstrations in Ames and Seattle highlight controversy surrounding Gates Foundation-funded Transgenic Banana Study at Iowa State University
Ames, IA and Seattle, WA: On Monday February 15th, Iowa State University graduate students will deliver 57,309 petition signatures to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at ISU while AGRA Watch members deliver the same petition to the headquarters of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington. (The petitions will be delivered at 9:30am PST and 11:30am CST.) The petition asks the University and the Gates Foundation to cease supporting the transgenic banana study, including human feeding trials, and to change the trajectory for this type of research conducted at public universities. Petition signatures were collected by ISU graduate students, AGRA Watch and CREDO Action.
With the purported goal of reducing Vitamin A deficiency in Uganda and other parts of the world, genetically modified bananas are enriched with beta carotene. The study examines the extent to which the bananas’ beta carotene is converted to Vitamin A in the body and absorbed by consumers. The study is funded by the Gates Foundation.
The CREDO petition is a follow-up to a petition launched in 2015 by ISU graduate students who, in partnership with AGRA Watch, collected over 1000 signatures, that were delivered in December. These petitions respond to an email that was sent to the ISU student body in April 2014 inviting young women (ages 18-40) to eat genetically modified bananas in return for $900.
This study is one of the first human feeding trials of a genetically modified product, and there has been no prior animal testing of this product. Thus, ISU students are being asked to be the first to consume a product of unknown safety. The study is not being conducted in a transparent manner, and concerned ISU community members have not been able to receive answers about the research design, risks, nature of the informed consent given by the subjects, and the generalizability of the study.
The safety concern is not limited to students or activists. Dr. David Schubert, a molecular biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, said, “Beta carotine is chemically related to compounds that are known to cause birth defects and other problems in humans at extremely low levels, and these toxic chemicals are possible if not likely by-products of plants engineered to make large amounts of beta carotene. Since there is no required safety testing of the banana or any other GMO, doing a feeding trial in people, especially women, should not be allowed. It is both unethical and immoral, particularly because there are several naturally occurring varieties of banana that are safe and have higher levels of beta carotene than the GM varieties.”
Beyond the possible harm to students, the banana may have negative long-term impacts on Ugandan agriculture. Many banana varieties serves as staples in Ugandan diets. Ugandans have the right to have access to safe, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food. A coalition of over 100 U.S., African and international organizations expressed concerns in an Open Letter that genetically-modified bananas are not meant to serve such a purpose, and that this crop will have an adverse affect on Ugandan agriculture, food security and food sovereignty.
Bridget Mugambe, a Ugandan campaigner with Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, declared, “What is eluding the Gates Foundation is the existence of diverse alternative sources of Vitamin A rich foods that are easily planted and readily available in Uganda. The need for this Vitamin A rich GM banana is clearly assumed, and may sadly end up destroying a food that is at the very core of our social fabric.”
The demonstrations come on the heels of a widely-reported new critique of the Gates Foundation, commissioned by UK-based Global Justice Now. In the reportentitled “Gated Development”, the organization argues that “big business is directly benefitting, in particular in the fields of agriculture and health, as a result of the foundation’s activities.” The report goes on to claim that the foundation creates “a corporate merry-go-round where the [foundation] consistently acts in the interests of corporations”.
Mariam Mayet, Director of African Centre for Biodiversity (South Africa) stated, “We in Africa vehemently oppose the introduction of GM crops plants into our food and farming systems that is being carried out in the name of the public good. Once again we would like to draw attention to the conclusions of the 400 global experts of the IAASTD report, who are under no illusion that the current obsession with yield and productivity (personified in the extreme by GMOs) is a panacea for a more ecologically sustainable and equitable food system.”
Last month, Other Worlds, an organization that promotes economic and environmental justice, published the second article of their seven part series on African seed and food sovereignty. The article, titled “Dangers of the Gates Foundation: Displacing Seeds and Farmers,” features information gathered from the founder and director of the African Centre for Biodiversity, and AGRA Watch partner, Mariam Mayet. It discusses the role that the Gates Foundation plays in displacing traditional agricultural practices through investment in a green revolution in Africa.
Investments made by the Gates Foundation, along with those made by the US government, the UK, and the Netherlands have created costly agricultural projects that rely on the products of multinational corporations, and that African farmers can only participate in if the public subsidizes them, which it does. In other words, the Gates Foundation is helping to create a system in which subsidies generate profit for multinational corporations, not farmers. While empowering corporations, the projects that the Gates Foundation invests in have disempowered farmers by allowing these multinational companies to make agricultural production decisions in “laboratories or in far-away board rooms.”
AGRA Watch feels that by giving corporations the power to make agricultural production decisions, the Gates Foundation is displacing the peasant farming systems on which about 80 percent of the population relies for income and food. While they do this, AGRA Watch, Mayet, and many other partners encourage those systems. We encourage systems in which “farmers control their seed systems, are proud of their knowledge systems, share seeds from generation to generation through the age-old practice of exchange where they are self-reliant on a huge diversity of seeds under their control, where women play an important role in production decisions, seed selection, and breeding, and where our local food economies find their roots.” Later in this seven part series, Other Worlds discusses with Mayet how her and the African Centre for Biodiversity are encouraging such systems.
Check back later for our synopses of, and links to the subsequent parts of this seven part series.
Earlier this month, Other Worlds, an organization that promotes
economic justice, environmentally sound systems, and meaningful democracy, published the first article of their seven part series on African seed and food sovereignty. The article, “We
Are the Solution: African Women Organize for Land and Seed Sovereignty,” features information gathered during an interview with Mariama Sonko, a farmer and organizer in the Casamance region of Senegal. Sonko is the National Coordinator of We Are the Solution, a campaign for food sovereignty led by West African women.
The article discusses the discrepancy between the important role that African women play in agriculture, and the minimal control that they have over agriculture. In terms of conserving native seeds, producing and processing agricultural products, and marketing and selling those products, women dominate African agriculture. However, when it comes to land access, land use, and land ownership, female control is extremely limited, and as a result, land is underutilized. We Are the Solution works to raise awareness of this issue and to advocate for more rights for female farmers.
Additionally, the article discusses We Are the Solution’s promotion of agroecology and food sovereignty. The organization facilitates workshops, forums, and community radio broadcasts to encourage the preservation of the environment and biodiversity through the use of domestic resources that are both affordable and accessible.
Along with We Are the Solution, AGRA Watch feels that agroecology and seed and food sovereignty, not the industrial agricultural model pushed by the Gates Foundation, allows for the long-term health of Africans and their environment.
Our next post will cover the second article of this seven-part series, “Dangers of the Gates Foundation: Displacing Seeds and Farmers,” which features the founder and director of the African Centre for Biodiversity, and AGRA Watch partner, Mariam Mayet.