FAO Symposium on Biotechnology: The biotechnology industry runs the show


The undersigned representatives of peasant and other Civil Society organizations, men and women, express our concern and alarm about the FAO International Symposium on “The Role of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition”[1] to be held at FAO headquarters in Rome on 15-17 February 2016.

We are concerned as to why FAO has decided to hold this Symposium, and why now. We remember the disastrous last attempt by FAO to act as an undercover agent for biotechnology companies, by organizing the International Technical Conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2010.[2]

We are alarmed that FAO is once again fronting for the same corporations, just when these companies are talking about further mergers amongst themselves, which would concentrate the commercial seeds sector in even fewer hands. FAO should act as a knowledge center, rather than as a promoter of the ideological approach of the private sector.  Unfortunately the program for this symposium is designed to showcase the “benefits” of GMOs, artificial genetic constructs created with possibly even more dangerous technologies, and other biotechnologies held by a handful of TNCs.

Last year FAO hosted an international symposium on agroecology and three regional meetings to discuss with governments and civil society how to move the agroecology agenda forward.[3]  Those activities were much closer to the way that FAO should act, as a center for knowledge exchange, without a hidden agenda on behalf of a few.  Yet in this case, truly useful peasant-based technologies must take a backseat to those that only serve to advance corporate profits.

It is clear that, through the FAO, industry wants to re-launch their false message that genetically engineered crops can feed the world and cool the planet, while the reality is that nothing has changed on the biotech front. GMOs don’t feed people, they are mostly planted in a handful of countries on industrial plantations for agrofuels and animal feed, they increase pesticide use, and they throw farmers off the land.[4] The industrial food system that it promotes is one of the main drivers of climate change.[5]

If anything, the situation has worsened over the past years:

The quality of private sector agricultural research has been declining, even as their expenditures have increased, leading to vulnerability among seed and crop chemical input companies;

As a result, mergers and acquisitions are being planned with, and among, the Big Six seed/pesticide corporations that already control 75% of global private sector research and development in agriculture;

In desperation the surviving companies are calling for “climate-smart” agriculture, demanding protection from anti-cartel/competition regulators, pushing for more intellectual property rights and for increased public subsidies to allow them to go ahead with their plans.

The same corporations are going beyond conventional GMO plant varieties toward “extreme biotech” strategies such as synthetic biology to create new genetic constructs, and trying, once again, to overturn the UN moratorium against Terminator seeds. Not only do they ignore the rights of farmers, they are using biotechnologies to patent plant genes that are already in peasants’ fields and that we have selected ourselves. With collaboration of the Seed Treaty, the so called Divseek program offers totally free access to all the gene sequences of the seeds that we have given free of charge to the gene banks. With the new biotechnologies for editing the genome, international corporations re-compose these genes in order to patent them. They want to forbid us to produce our own seeds and oblige us to buy their patented GMOs every year as well as their toxic pesticides, indispensable to grow those GMOs.

In animal husbandry and fisheries where transgenic salmon and pigs already exist, we see the same scenario, the strengthening of industrial production and the increase in the use of antibiotics….

We remember the last time FAO allowed the biotech giants to push them into an international conference, in Guadalajara in 2010, at which the FAO worked hard, as in this case, to limit the involvement and participation of La Vía Campesina and other CSOs, and was publicly condemned for shameless promotion of GMOs by many organizations across the world[6]. 

Why does FAO limit itself to corporate biotechnology and deny the existence of peasant technologies? It is time to stop pushing this narrow corporate biotech agenda.  The vast majority of the world’s farmers are peasants, and it is peasants who feed the world. We need peasant-based technologies, not corporate biotechnologies.

It is high time that FAO gets its priorities clear. Rather than allowing corporations to push their biotechnology agendas, FAO should forcefully pursue agroecology and food sovereignty as the path to feed the world and cool the planet!

International and Regional Organizations

  1. ActionAid International
  2. African Biodiversity Network (ABN)
  3. Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)
  4. Asian Peasant Coalition (APC)
  5. Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD)
  6. Campaña Mesoamericana para la Justicia Climática
  7. CICODEV Africa
  8. Comité pour l’Annulation de la Dette du Tiers Monde (CADTM International)
  9. Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité (CIDSE)
  10. Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Brussels
  11. ETC Group
  12. Focus on the Global South India, Thailand and Philippines
  13. Friends of the Earth International
  14. Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity
  15. GRAIN
  16. Greenpeace International
  17. Growth Partners Africa –GPA
  18. Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC)
  19. International Indian Treaty Council (IITC)
  20. La Via Campesina
  21. Movimiento Agroecológico de América Latina y el Caribe (MAELA)
  23. Pan-Africanist International
  24. Pelum Association, Africa
  25. Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD Regional)
  26. Red interamericana de economía solidaria de latinoamérica y el caribe. RIPESS LAC
  27. Red por una América Latina Libre de Transgénicos
  28. Red de Acción en Plaguicidas y sus Alternativas para América Latina (RAPAL)
  29. RIPESS Europe
  30. RIPESS Intercontinental
  31. Slow Food
  32. Society for International Development (SID)
  33. Solidarity Economy Europe
  34. Transnational Institute (TNI)
  35. Urgenci Europe
  36. Urgenci International Network
  37. World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP)
  38. World Public Health Nutrition Association
  39. World Rainforest Movement (WRM)

National and Local Organizations

  1. Acción Ecológica, Ecuador
  2. ADTM International, Belgium
  3. African Center for Biodiversity, South Africa and Tanzania
  4. Agriculture Sovereignty Ghana
  5. AGRECOL, Germany
  6. AIAB, Italy
  8. Alianza por una Mejor Calidad de Vida/Red de Acción en Plaguicidas de Chile, RAP-Chile
  9. Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)
  10. Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), India
  12. AMAR Environment Defense Association, Brazil
  13. APROMAC Environment Protection Association, Brazil
  14. Articulação de Agroecologia na Bahia- (AABA), Brazil
  15. Articulação Semiárido Brasileiro (ASA), Brazil
  16. Asian Peasant Coalition (APC)
  17. Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD)
  18. Associação Brasileira de Agroecologia (ABA), Brazil
  19. Associação Gaúcha de Proteção ao Ambiente Natural (AGAPAN), Brazil
  20. Associação para o Desenvolvimento da Agroecologia (AOPA), Brazil
  21. Association Citoyenne de Défenses des Intérêts Collectifs (ACDIC), Cameroon
  22. ATTAC Argentina
  23. ATTAC France
  24. ATTAC CADTM, Morroco
  25. Attac Côte d’Ivoire
  26. Australian Food Sovereignty Allianc
  27. BioScience Resource Project, USA
  28. Bread for the World, Germany
  29. CADTM, Maroc
  30. Campaña Yo No Quiero Transgénicos, Chile
  31. Censat Agua Viva – Amigos de la Tierra, Colombia
  32. Center for Research and Documentation Chile-Latin America, Germany
  33. Centre Europe-Tiers Monde (CETIM), Switzerland
  34. Centro de Derechos Humanos “Fray Francisco de Vitoria OP”, A.C., Mexico
  36. Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.” , Ecuador
  37. Centro Ecologico, Brasil
  38. Çiftçi-SEN (Confederation of Farmers’ Unions), Turkey
  39. CSMM, Ecuador
  40. CCFD-Terre Solidaire, France
  41. Coalition for a GM-Free India, India
  42. Coldiretti, Italy
  43. Colectivo Revuelta Verde, Mexico
  44. Colectivo VientoSur, Chile
  45. Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, Ecuador
  46. Community to Community, USA
  47. Comunidades Campesinas y Urbanas Solidarias con Alternativas, México
  48. Conselho Nacional das Populações Extrativistas (CNS), Brazil
  49. Cooperativa por un Ambiente Biodiverso y Sustentable, CAMBIOS, S.C., Mexico
  50. Cooperativa Semilla Austral, Chile
  51. Coordinadora de Movimientos Populares para la Integración Latinoamericana
  52. Coordination Climat Justice Sociale, Switzerland
  53. Earthlife Africa, South Africa
  54. Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
  55. Ekologistak Martxan, Spain
  56. Educación, Cultura y Ecología, A. C. (Educe AC.), Mexico
  57. FASE – Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional, Brazil
  58. Food First, USA
  59. Food Sovereignty Ghana
  60. Foro Ciudadano de Participación por la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos, Argentina
  61. Friends of the Earth U.S.A.
  62. Fronteras Comunes A.C., Mexico
  63. Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho (FESPAD), El Salvador
  64. Fundación Mundubat, Basque Country
  65. GE Free New Zealand
  66. Générations Futures, France
  67. Global Justice Alliance, USA
  68. Grupo Coletivo Triunfo de Agricultores Familiares, Brazil
  69. Grupo de Agroecología y Soberanía Alimentaria (GASA), Panama
  70. Grupo de Coordinación Ampliado del Grupo Carta de Belém, Brazil
  72. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, USA
  73. Institute for Research and Promotion of alternatives in development (IRPAD), Mali
  74. Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas del Tercer Mundo, Ecuador
  75. Jubileu Sul, Brasil
  76. Kenya Biodiversity Coalition
  77. Kenya Food Rights Alliance – KeFRA
  78. Kenya Food Rights Alliance –KeFRA
  79. La Asamblea Veracruzana de Iniciativas y Defensa Ambiental (LAVIDA)
  80. Laboratorio de Investigación en Desarrollo Comunitario y Sustentabilidad, Mexico
  81. La Fédération Unie de Groupements d’Eleveurs et d’Agriculteurs (FUGEA), Belgium
  82. Living Farms, India
  83. Marcha Mundial de las Mujeres, Chile
  84. MASIPAG, Philippines
  85. Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica (MNFM), El Salvador
  86. Mesa Permanente por la Justicia Laboral (MPJL), El Salvador
  87. Millennium Institute, USA
  88. Mouvement “Nous Sommes la Solution”, Senegal
  89. Mouvement d’Action Paysanne (MAP), Belgium
  90. Movement Generation, USA
  91. Movimiento de los Pequenos Agricultores-MPA, Brazil
  92. Movimiento Nacional en Defensa de la Tierra (MOVITIERRA), El Salvador
  93. Navdanya, India
  94. Never Ending Food, Malawi
  95. Organic Systems, New Zealand
  96. Other Worlds, USA
  97. PACS – Institute Alternative Policies for the Southern Cone of Latin America, Brazil
  98. PAPDA, Haïti
  99. Peuples Solidaires-ActionAid, France
  101. rede de Comunidades Tradicionais Pantaneira, Brazil
  102. Rede Ecovida de Agroecologia, Brazil
  103. Red de Accion por los Derechos Ambientales (RADA), Temuko,Chile.
  105. Red de Semillas Libres de Chile
  107. Red Mexicana de Acción Ecológica y Pacifista [Red ECOPAZ]
  108. RELUFA (Network for the Fight Against Hunger), Cameroon
  109. Save Our Seeds, Germany
  110. Semillas de Vida, Mexico
  111. Serviço de assessoria a organizações populares rurais (SASOP), Brazil
  112. Solidaridad Suecia – América Latina, Sweden
  113. South Durban Community environmental Alliance, South Africa
  114. Sri Lanka Nature Group
  115. Sunray Harvesters, India
  116. Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT)
  117. Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity (TABIO), Tanzania
  118. Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement (TOAM), Tanzania
  119. Tarım Orkam-Sen, Turkey
  120. Terra de Direitos, Brazil
  121. Terra Nuova, Italy
  122. The Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity Conservation
  123. TOXISPHERA Environmental Health Association, Brazil
  124. Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE), South Africa
  125. Unidad de la Fuerza Indígena y Campesina (UFIC), México
  126. Unidad Ecológica Salvadoreña  (UNES), El Salvador
  127. Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), Palestine
  128. US Food Sovereignty Alliance, USA
  130. Vía Orgánica, Mexico
  131. War on Want, UK
  132. WhyHunger, USA

[1] http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/agphome/agribiotech/Programme_Overview_detailed.pdf