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GM crops as part of further corporatization of agriculture

(July 10, 2001 – CropChoice opinion) – The United Kingdom and the OECD kicked off their "New Biotechnology Food and Crops: Science, Safety and Society" meeting today at the United Nations conference center in Bangkok with a call for respect for the rights of consumers and farmers. Meanwhile, farmers and activists protested outside the "open" and "inclusive" meeting.

Suwit Khunkitti, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, emphasized the "potential and the pitfalls" of transgenic foods. He also stressed the need for full information for consumers.

"The rights of consumers are supreme and must be respected," he said. "Consumers have the absolute right to know what is in the food that they consume."

The United Kingdom and the OECD, in co-operation with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Environment Program, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Government of Thailand, organized the conference. The Earl of Selbourne, chairman of the U.K. Chemicals Stakeholder Forum, is chairing the conference, which includes 250 scientists, government officials, as well as representatives of industry, agriculture and civil society. Note that the list doesn’t include non-governmental environmental organizations.

According to the Associated Press, "the protesters, who labeled the OECD the ‘Organization for Ecological Catastrophe and Disaster,’ charged the organization held the conference to influence Thailand and other developing countries to accept the principle and regulations of industrialized nations on biotechnology.

Greenpeace International representative Jan van Aken was cited as backing the protests and said it was no coincidence the forum was being held in the capital of a developing nation, adding, ‘I think they have a point. Why are they holding the meeting here. To use it as a propaganda show? I'm curious to see if there is one single critical word in the final report. Our experience with the OECD is that they are an organisation for industrialised countries.’"

A closing news conference happens on Thursday July 12 at 1:30 p.m. For more information, visit the conference website at www.oecd.org/bangkok

It’s interesting and outrageous to hear the biotechnology industry spew spin about the benefits of transgenic crops to farmers, just as it works to drive subsistence growers off of their land. Maybe the type of farming that industry envisions coincides with policies that the Indian government is considering. Read all about it in The Guardian:

"Clare Short, the international development secretary, came under fire last night for her department's backing of a controversial scheme in India which campaigners fear will lead to the displacement of millions of poor rural labourers and the extensive introduction of GM crops…" www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4217682,00.html.