Press Release Via Campesina #3
The 4th International Conference of Via Campesina firmly expressed its position of condemnation and indignation at the annual report of the FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization); a shameless endorsement of the biotechnology industry, which embraces GMOs and threatens people’s food sovereignty, particularly in poor countries. Via Campesina, the most important organization in the global movement of peasants and small farmers, affirmed its position with the unanimous approval of all the participants in the 4th Conference; the same feeling has been expressed through an open letter written to the General Director of the FAO, Jacques Diuf, a letter that has received the support of more than 850 peasant movements and organizations.
The 2004 report of the FAO, entitled "Biotechnology: responding to the needs of the poor?", written without any consultation from peasant organizations, is considered as supporting the biotechnology industry, GMOs, and suggests that major financial resources should be allotted for investigations of this type, at odds with the ecological methods that are practiced by small farmers and peasants.
The letter to Mr. Diof stated the following: "We are deeply disappointed because the FAO and you personally, broke your commitment to consult and maintain an open dialogue with the organizations of small scale farmers scale and with civil society. Upon failing to consult these organization the FAO turned its back on those that are most direct affected by the technologies endorsed in the report."
Added to this is the fact that instead of recommending that small farmers and biodiversity be strengthened the report proposes a technological crop system that promotes GMOs such as yucca, potatoes, beans and others.
The letter also highlights the fact that world hunger grows despite the increase in the global production of food; and that if "we have learned anything from the green revolution it is that technological advances in genetic manipulation of crops, go hand in hand with the increase of socio-economic polarization, the rural and urban impoverishment, and increased food insecurity".
The FAO does not seem to have learned anything from the failure of the green revolution and does not understand that the strict technological vision has strengthened the structures that provoke famine. The letter underscores that history shows that structural changes in access to land, the production of food and political power, together with solid technologies, corroborated in research based on traditional knowledge, reduce hunger and poverty.
The report of more than 200 pages tends to ignore the adverse impacts of GMO crops, and inaccurately states they have resulted in enormous economic benefits for farmers and have reduced pests. These statements come from research that is funded by bio-tech firms and is at odds with the independent scientific sources. For example, they affirm that GMO cotton with insecticide (Bt) in India has been a success, based on partial facts from the Monsanto corporation, in 2001, but they do not take into account the real facts of the legalization of Bt in 2002 which shows that it was a failure.
The voices against GMOs have been unanimous in the 4th Via Campesina conference. "The multinational corporations want to manipulate our crops to be able to control all of the food chain around the world, requiring us to stop producing food and start consuming their products. With this report, the FAO lends credibility to the continual contamination of our crops, which is why we reject the report and are revising our position on this organization and other UN agencies, which serve to legitimize transnational corporations that promote industrial agriculture and the expulsion of small farmers", stated Paul Nicholson, small farmer from Basque Country and member of the International Coordinating Committee of the Via Campesina.
The FAO report has called into question the credibility that Via Campesina has lent to the FAO, in light of the fact that it has broken the commitment to consult the rural organizations and demonstrates that the FAO is no longer a legitimate forum to debate themes such as agriculture and food. The path for the Via Campesina is clear: to demand that its voice be listened to by institutions such as the FAO, and to continue to work from the base, in horizontal networks, integrating small farmers, indigenous peoples, black communities, women and youth, promoting civil disobedience, affirming cultural diversity and denouncing impositions by multilateral institutions. In short: globalizing struggle, globalizing hope.