Global ‘March Against Monsanto’ rallies activists

People hold signs during one of many worldwide “March Against Monsanto” protests against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and agro-chemicals, in Los Angeles, California Saturday. Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

People hold signs during one of many worldwide “March Against Monsanto” protests against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and agro-chemicals, in Los Angeles, California Saturday. Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

By Renee Lewis, 12 October, 2013. Source: Al Jazeera

Activists from around the globe participated in a global ‘March Against Monsanto’ Saturday, calling for the permanent boycott of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This was the second global, anti-Monsanto protest — the first took place on May 25 with over 2 million participants, organizers said.

Photos appear to show hundreds of marchers taking to the streets in cities around the world including Vienna, London, Chennai and Sydney. Rallies have kicked off in U.S. cities as well including Los Angeles and Denver.

Critics of Monsanto, a multi-national biotech corporation, say its seeds destroy the soil and are designed to make constant repurchase necessary because the seeds last only one generation. The seeds must also be used with a variety of the company’s other products like fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides, which have been linked to mass bee deaths.

Monsanto, which touts itself as a “sustainable agriculture company” and is worth over $55 billion, says it produces high-yield conventional and biotech seeds that enable more nutritious and durable crops and “safe and effective crop protection solutions.” The U.S. government also says Monsanto’s products are safe.

March Against Monsanto (MAM), however, says GMOs are not properly monitored to ensure public safety and that no long-term, independent studies were carried out on GMOs before they were introduced for human consumption.

“In the U.S., the revolving door between Monsanto employees, government positions and regulatory authorities has led to key Monsanto figures occupying positions of power at the FDA and EPA. Monsanto has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to obstruct all labeling attempts; they also suppress any research containing results not in their favor,” MAM said in a press release.

GMOs have been banned to varying degrees in Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Madeira, New Zealand, Peru, Russia, France, Switzerland and Costa Rica.

GMOs are labeled in 62 countries, but not the U.S. despite several attempts. Last fall, Californian voters narrowly rejected an initiative to label GMOs, and a similar initiative is on the Nov. 5 Washington state ballot.

Prominent environmentalist Vandana Shiva has been outspoken against Monsanto, particularly in light of the corporation’s link to hundreds of thousands of Indian farmer suicides.

More than 250,000 farmers have committed suicide in India after Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds largely failed. Many farmers left in desperate poverty decided to drink Monsanto pesticide, ending their lives.

“The creation of seed monopolies, the destruction of alternatives, the collection of superprofits in the form of royalties and the increasing vulnerability of monocultures has created a context for debt, suicides and agrarian distress,” Shiva wrote.

Josh Castro, organizer for the Quito, Ecuador march said in a press release that he hopes to stop the “destructive practices of multinational corporations like Monsanto.”

“Biotechnology is not the solution to world hunger … Monsanto’s harmful practices are causing soil infertility, mono-cropping, loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction and contributing to beehive collapse.

Choice of Monsanto betrays World Food Prize purpose, say global leaders

By Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé, Huffington Post

“This statement is supported by 81 Councillors of the World Future Council, a network of global luminaries who “form a voice for the rights of future generations,” and/or Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award, often called the Alternative Nobel. Supporters’ names appear below.”

In honoring the seed biotechnology industry, this year’s World Food Prize – to many, the most prestigious prize in food and agriculture — betrays the award’s own mandate to emphasize ”the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people.” 

The 2013 World Food Prize has gone to three chemical company executives, including Monsanto executive vice president and chief technology officer,Robert Fraley, responsible for development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Yet, GMO seeds have not been designed to meet the Prize’s mandate and function in ways that actually impede progress toward the stated goals of the World Food Prize.

Almost twenty years after commercialization of the first GMO seeds, by far the most widely used are not engineered to enhance nutrient content, but to produce a specific pesticide or to resist a proprietary herbicide, or a combination of these traits. Even in reducing weeds, the technology is failing, for it has led to herbicide-resistant “super weeds” now appearing on nearly half of American farms.

GMO seeds undermine sustainability in other ways as well.

While profitable to the few companies producing them, GMO seeds reinforce a model of farming that undermines sustainability of cash-poor farmers, who make up most of the world’s hungry. GMO seeds continue farmers’ dependency on purchased seed and chemical inputs. The most dramatic impact of such dependency is in India, where 270,000 farmers, many trapped in debt for buying seeds and chemicals, committed suicide between 1995 and 2012.

GMOs also threaten sustainability because they continue agriculture’s dependence on diminishing and damaging fossil fuels and mined minerals, as well as a wasteful use of water.

This award not only communicates a false connection between GMOs and solutions to hunger and agricultural degradation, but it also diverts attention from truly “nutritious and sustainable” agroecological approaches already proving effective, especially in the face of extreme weather. The Rodale Institute, for example, found in its 30-year study, that organic methods used 45 percent less energy and produced 40 percent less greenhouse gases and outperformed chemical farming during drought years by as much as 31 percent.

Further evidence from around the world is showing how ecological methods dramatically enhance productivityimprove nutritional content of crops, and benefit soil health, all without leaving farmers dependent on ever-more expensive inputs. The United Nations, through its Office of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, has documented ecological agriculture’s potential in hungry regions to double food production in one decade. Chaired by former World Food Prize awardee Dr. Hans Herren, the 2008International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report, developed by 400 experts and endorsed by 59 governments, calls for redirection of agricultural development toward such sustainable practices. Agroecology and food sovereignty are emerging solutions shaped and chosen by scientists and citizens worldwide.

Note that the World Food Prize mandate is also to recognize contributors to food “for all people,” but GMO seeds make this goal harder to reach. Most GM crops are used for feed for livestock, processed food, or fuel — products not accessible to hungry people. Moreover, the planet already produces more than enough food for all, and 40 percent more per person than in 1970; yet today 870 million people, still suffer from extreme, long-term undernourishment because they lack power to access adequate food. Developed and controlled by a handful of companies, genetically engineered seeds further the concentration of power and the extreme inequality at the root of this crisis of food inaccessibility. Monsanto, for example, controls 90 percent of the U.S. soybean crop and 80 percent of the country’s corn and cotton crops.

The choice of the 2013 World Food Prize is an affront to the growing international consensus on safe, ecological farming practices that have been scientifically proven to promote nutrition and sustainability. Many governments have rejected GMOs, and as many as two million citizens in 52 countries recently marched in opposition to GMOs and Monsanto. In living democracies, discounting this knowledge and these many voices is not acceptable.

The 81 signatories below are Councillors of the World Future Council and/or
Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award:29 COUNCILLORS OF THE WORLD FUTURE COUNCIL (An asterisk indicates the signer is also a Right Livelihood Award Laureate but listed only once.)

*Vandana Shiva, Founder, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
*Frances Moore Lappé, Co-founder, Small Planet Institute
*Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians
*Dipal Barua, Founder and Chairman of the Bright Green Energy Foundation
*Hans-Peter Dürr, Nuclear physicist and philosopher
*Sulak Sivaraksa, Co-founder, International Network of Engaged Buddhists
*Ibrahim Abouleish, Founder of SEKEM
*Chico Whitaker, Co-founder, World Social Forum
*Manfred Max-Neef, Prof Dr. h.c. (mult.) Manfred Max-Neef, Director, Economics Institute, Universidad Austral de Chile
*Alyn Ware, Founder and international coordinator of the Network Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND)
David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Rama Mani, Vice Chair, Academic Council on the United Nations System
Alexander Likhotal, President, Green Cross International
Thais Corral, Co-founder, Women’s Environment and Development Organization
Pauline Tangiora, Maori elder, Rongomaiwahine Tribe
Anna Oposa, Co-Founder, Save Philippine Seas
Scilla Elworthy, Founder, Oxford Research Group, Founder, Peace Direct
Katiana Orluc, Director of Development/Strategic Affairs, Thyssen-Bornemisza, Art Contemporary (TBA21)
Riane Eisler, President, Centre for Partnership Studies
Ashok Khosla, Chairman, Centre for Development Alternatives
Hafsat Abiola, Founder and President of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND)
Rafia Ghubash, President, Arab Network for Women, Science and Technology
Daryl Hannah, Actress and advocate for a sustainable world
Vithal Rajan, Founder, Trustee of Agriculture Man Ecology [AME], Foundation of India
Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director, The Oakland Institute
Herbert Girardet, Honorary Councillor, World Future Council
Ana María Cetto, Research professor of the Institute of Physics and lecturer at the Faculty of Sciences, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Nicholas Dunlop, Secretary-General, Climate Parliament
Motoyuki Suzuki, Chairman, Central Environmental Council of Japan


52 ADDITIONAL RIGHT LIVELIHOOD AWARD LAUREATES

Alice Tepper Marlin, President & Founder, Social Accountability International, USA (RLA 1990)
Alla Yaroshinskaya, Russia (RLA 1992)
Andras Biro, Hungarian Foundation for Self-Reliance, Hungary (RLA 1995)
Angie Zelter, Trident Ploughshares, United Kingdom (RLA 2001)
Annelies Allain, International Baby Food Action Network, Malaysia (RLA 1998)
Anwar Fazal, Director, Right Livelihood College, Malaysia (RLA 1982)
Augusto Juncal, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais sem Terra (MST), Brazil (RLA 1991)
Bianca Jagger, Founder and Chair, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, Nicaragua/UK (RLA 2004)
Birsel Lemke, Turkey (RLA 2000)
Daniel Ellsberg, USA (RLA 2006)
David Suzuki, Canada (RLA 2009)
Erik Dammann, Future in Our Hands, Norway (RLA 1982)
Bishop Erwin Kräutler, Brazil (RLA 2010)
Evaristo Nugkuag Ikanan, Instituto para el Buen Vivir, Peru (RLA 1986)
Felicia Langer, Israel/Germany (RLA 1990)
Fernando Funes-Aguilar, Grupo de Agricultura Orgánica, Cuba (RLA 1999)
Fernando Rendón, Co-Founder and Director, International Poetry Festival of Medellín, Colombia (RLA 2006)
GRAIN, International (RLA 2011)
Hanumappa Sudarshan, Karuna Trust & VGKK, India (RLA 1994)
Helen Mack Chang, Fundación Myrna Mack, Guatemala (RLA 1992)
Helena Norberg-Hodge, Founder and Director, International Society for Ecology & Culture, UK (RLA 1986)
Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism Solutions, USA (RLA 1983)
Ina May Gaskin, USA (RLA 2011)
Irene Fernandez, Tenaganita, Malaysia (RLA 2005)
Janos Vargha, Hungary (RLA 1985)
Prof. Dr. Johan Galtung, Norway (RLA 1987)
Juan Pablo Orrego, President, Ecosistemas, Chile (RLA 1998)
Katarina Kruhonja, Center for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights-Osijek, Croatia (RLA 1998)
Martín von Hildebrand, Founder and Director, Fundación GAIA Amazonas, Colombia (RLA 1999)
Melaku Worede, Ethiopia (RLA 1989)
Prof. Michael Succow, Founder, Michael Succow Foundation for Nature Conservation, Germany, (RLA 1997)
Mike Cooley, UK (RLA 1981)
SM Mohamed Idris, Sahabat Alam Malaysia-Sarawak, Malaysia (RLA 1988)
Monika Hauser, Founder, Medica Mondiale, Germany (RLA 2008)
Nicanor Perlas, Center for Alternative Development Initiatives, Philippines (RLA 2003)
Nnimmo Bassey, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria (RLA 2010)
Pat Mooney, ETC Group, Canada (RLA 1985)
Raúl A. Montenegro, President, Fundación para la defensa del ambiente, Argentina (RLA 2004)
Ruchama Marton, Founder and President, Physicians for Human Rights, Israel (RLA 2010)
Shrikrishna Upadhyay, Executive Chairman, Support Activities for Poor Producers of Nepal, Nepal (RLA 2010)
Sima Samar, Chairperson, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Afghanistan (RLA 2012)
Stephen Gaskin, PLENTY International, USA (RLA 1980)
Suciwati, widow of Munir, Indonesia (RLA 2000)
Swami Agnivesh, India (RLA 2004)
Tapio Mattlar, Kylätoiminta / The Finnish Village Action Movement, Finland (RLA 1992)
Tony Clarke, Executive Director, Polaris Institute, Canada (RLA 2005)
Uri Avnery, Founder, Gush Shalom, Israel (RLA 2001)
Wes Jackson, Founder and President, The Land Institute, USA (RLA 2000)
Zafrullah Chowdhury, Gonoshasthaya Kendra, Bangladesh (RLA 1992)
Percy and Louise Schmeiser (RLA 2007)
Jacqueline Moudeina (2011)