The surreptitious arrival of the new “Living Modified Organisms” at the FAO

Press Release – LA VIA CAMPESINA and MAELA (the Agroecological Movement of Latin America and the Caribbean)

(Rome, Monday, February 17th, 2016) Industry has chosen to use the FAO as a smoke screen behind which to conceal its new Living Modified Organisms. Participants in the FAO’s International Symposium on “The Role of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition”, which took place in Rome from February 15th to 17th, listened to nearly 80 speakers coming from industry, from research centres, and from some government delegations. There was only one invited representative from civil society among the panelists.  

The new propaganda line supported by a handful of governments is startlingly simple: biotechnology cannot be reduced to Living Modified Organisms; peasant knowledge is also part of biotechnology. Therefore, the new Living Modified Organisms are like peasant knowledge, and thus they are not living modified organisms.

In this manner, industry hopes to impose its new patented Living Modified Organisms without their being subject to international obligations regarding traceability and labelling or to the national health and safety and environmental laws that would allow States to prohibit them.

Hidden behind these concealed new Living Modified Organisms are patents on the native genes of all of the world’s peasant seeds. It is in this way that industry is seeking to appropriate the ancestral knowledge of peasants and small farmers and to prohibit them from developing their own biological innovations, which begin with the collective production and exchange of peasant seeds.

We call upon governments and upon the FAO to expose this despicable manipulation, and to support peasant and traditional biological innovations and peasant seed systems. It is only peasant seed systems that are able to adapt to the challenges of climate change and of food sovereignty for the peoples of the world. We also call upon governments to ensure that there is respect for the rules which have been established in order to provide for the effective participation of civil society organisations in events that are organised by the FAO.