Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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June 24, 2003

Killer Tomatoes to protest GMO event

GMO - genetically modified organisms introduced into the food chain by multinational biotech companies, have come under attack from a panel of independent scientists who say "the case for GMO has not been made". reports that yields from genetically modified crops are largely inferior to expectations, even inferior to the yields farmers achieve with the "normal", non-modified original varieties.

According to an article published today in The Guardian, anti-globalisation and environmental protesters are planning to converge on the Californian state capital, Sacramento, at the weekend to demonstrate against a conference run and funded by the US government on genetically modified food.

Updated 24 June 2003

The Killer Tomatoes head for California crop summit

Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles
Friday June 20, 2003
The Guardian

Anti-globalisation and environmental protesters are planning to converge on the Californian state capital, Sacramento, at the weekend to demonstrate against a conference run and funded by the US government on genetically modified food.

Protesters claim that the conference is a desperate attempt to save the embattled GM food industry.

The conference theme is the broadening of "knowledge and understanding of agricultural science and technology ... to raise agricultural productivity, alleviate hunger and famine and improve nutrition".

More than 120 ministers, some senior, from 75 countries including Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Uganda and Venezuela are to attend. It is backed by the US state department, the department of agriculture and the agency for international development (USAid).

Some 130 groups are mobilising, mainly to protest against what they see as the conference's hidden agenda.

"The largely US-based bio-technology industry is in crisis," said Peter Rosset, co-director of Food First, the Institute for Food and Development Policy, a thinktank based in Oakland, California. "This conference is a desperate attempt, at the taxpayers' expense, to prop up a failing industry. The whole conference is pitched at developing countries."

Mr Rosset said that, with suspicion growing about GM food around the world, the US government had decided to bail out the industry. He said every country, with the exception of those deemed to be in the "axis of evil", had been invited. Fares for two senior ministers from each country were being paid by the US, he said. Significantly, western European countries were not attending.

Accusing the US of "trying to hijack a UN-sponsored multilateral process", Mr Rosset suggested that American taxpayers were effectively sponsoring "some of the richest companies on earth in a trade fair".

Apart from the £1.8m cost of the conference, £600,000 is being allocated for security to combat wide-ranging plans for non-violent protest.

One group planning to demonstrate is The Killer Tomatoes. Member Mary Bull said yesterday: "The United States is trying to coerce poor African nations into taking [GM foods]. It is a really significant conference from that point of view and we have to show that food can be distributed in a just and equitable way and not in the form of corporate-controlled and pesticide-driven agriculture."

She added: "Knowing the Sacramento police, I'm sure there's going to be lots and lots of arrests."

The US department of agriculture did not respond to questions about the claims by Food First and other groups, but it has argued in the past that GM foods can help alleviate hunger at a time when some 600 million people worldwide are malnourished.

David Hegwood, counsel to the agriculture secretary, has criticised western European countries for their current moratorium on GM foods: "The fear of Europe is keeping food out of the mouths of hungry people in Africa."

Proposed GM innovations likely to be discussed at the conference include fruit and vegetables aimed at stimulating the immune system and rice that would contain extra iron and vitamins. Such foods are an estimated five years away from being available commercially.

Article found in: Guardian Unlimited

A new report, Voices From the South, systematically refutes a number of widely promoted myths about genetically engineered (GE) food. Released by Pesticide Action Network North America and Food First just days before a ministerial level agricultural conference promoting GE foods gets underway in Sacramento, California, the report counters the claims of the biotech industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that GE crops are a solution to hunger in the Third World.

In the report, leading activists, scientists and farmers from countries as diverse as Ethiopia, India and Ecuador argue that the development of GE crops has not focused on feeding people but rather on securing market share for the world's largest agrochemical/biotech companies. "Genetically engineered crops are instruments of industrialized agriculture," said Silvia Ribeiro of the ETC Group in Uruguay, one of the authors. "They benefit the richest people in the world, not the hungriest. GE crops are designed to take the control of food production away from local communities, by creating greater dependence on agribusiness corporations for seed and pesticides."

The report addresses six common myths spread by the biotech industry about GE crops, with responses by leading Third World analysts. "You can break down these myths into three basic components: Green washing, poor washing, and hope dashing," said Anuradha Mittal, co-director of Food First, who is from India. "Green washing suggests that biotech will create a world free of pesticides; poor washing would have us believe that we must accept genetically engineered crops if we are to feed the poor in the Third World; and hope dashing claims there are no alternatives. But in this report, this rhetoric is systematically dismantled by the very people GE crops are supposed to benefit."

Research by Food First reveals that the industry claim that there is not enough food to feed the hungry is not based in fact. The world today produces more food per inhabitant than ever before. The real causes of hunger are poverty, inequality and lack of access. Too many people are too poor to buy the food that is available (but often poorly distributed) or lack the land and resources to grow it themselves.

"What farmers in the developing world need are policies that give farming communities control over their own resources and build on local ecological knowledge," writes Timothy Byakola, also an author, who coordinates PAN East Africa, "not another technological quick fix."

The authors note that there is already enough food to feed the world one and a half times over, and that genetically engineered crops have caused economic and ecological problems where they have been grown. The report argues that the poor and hungry of the developing world need economic and social policies that address the root causes of hunger in poverty and inequality, not quick technological fixes that largely benefit foreign corporations.

The report highlights traditional farming methods that involve sustainable use of land, water and seeds in a system that guarantees food sovereignty. Current global trade and economic policies which force privatization, centralization and commercialization are a threat to food sovereignty in southern countries.

Voices from the South: The Third World Debunks Corporate Myths on Genetically Engineered Crops is published by Pesticide Action Network (PANNA) and Food First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy, as part of the work of both organizations to bring the views of grassroots activists of the global south to the political debate about the risks and costs of GE food.

Voices from the South is available online at .

Sources: Voices from the South, The Third World Debunks Corporate Myths on Genetically Engineered Crops, Ellen Hickey and Anuradha Mittal (editors), June 2003, PANNA, 49 Powell St. #500 San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 981-1771,

And here is some information in a recent article on BBC News about how Her Majesty's government has treated the GMO debate...

Update 24 June 2003:

60 Arrested In Sacramento Bio-Tech Protests Demonstrators Dress As Corn, Butterflies And Tomatoes
POSTED: 10:44 a.m. PDT June 24, 2003

Sixty protesters have been arrested in demonstrations against this week's meeting of more than 100 agriculture officials from around the world.

More than 1,500 protesters rallied at the state Capitol then marched through downtown as the Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology began three days of discussions on genetically engineered crops.

Demonstrators dressed as giant ears of corn, butterflies and tomatoes -- and some not dressed at all -- mingled with anarchists, organic farmers and chefs at a mostly peaceful march Monday.

Following the march, about 20 protesters doffed their clothes and danced on the steps of the state Capitol, then began an unauthorized parade through downtown Sacramento.

Sacramento police said nine protesters were arrested Monday. The California Highway Patrol reported five arrests. All five were charged with resisting arrest and obstruction, and one woman was also charged with being under the influence of drugs, said CHP spokesman Tom Marshall.

Before the march on Monday, police confiscated a bag at the Capitol that contained spray paint and weapons, including light bulbs filled with flammable liquid, a slingshot, sharpened sticks and wooden shields.

On Sunday, 46 protesters were arrested before the conference even opened, police said.

Sacramento police said Tuesday those arrested could face charges including indecent exposure, trespassing, failure to disperse, resisting arrest and violating city codes.

Activists said they fear the gathering is an attempt by corporate farming to push bio-engineered crops on starving countries, a claim disputed by the event's organizers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman told agriculture ministers, scientists and health care experts from 120 countries that biotechnology can help developing nations reduce hunger while improving nutrition and their economies.

Protesters didn't block agriculture officials as they entered the conference, police said. At a World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle three years ago, protesters were able to delay the event by preventing officials from getting to the building.

Police -- on horseback, bicycle, foot and in the air -- said they were prepared for thousands more protesters after organizers sought a permit for 8,000 demonstrators.

Some offices and restaurants closed because of the anticipated demonstrations and downtown seemed more like a ghost town, with law enforcement -- many dressed in riot gear -- outnumbering people on the streets.

Others put signs in their windows declaring their businesses "corporation free."

Security was scaled back Tuesday and more employees returned to work in offices near the city's convention center.

Organizer Juliette Beck, the California coordinator for Public Citizen, a Washington-based consumers' rights group, said the sizable police presence was "total overkill."

"They're creating a climate of fear and criminalizing protesters," she said.

Sacramento County Sheriff Lou Blanas disagreed, saying, "If it's safe and there are no problems, it's never overkill."


Protesters decry 'Frankenfood'

By Joe Fasbinder

SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 24 (UPI) -- Foes of genetically modified food paraded through cordoned-off streets of Sacramento, Calif. for the second day Tuesday.

The protest was aimed at top federal officials and representatives of
120 nations, who opened an international conference at the city's convention center on farm technology.

The largely subdued protests turned Sacramento's normally busy downtown core unusually quiet. The Los Angeles Times said most office buildings near the Capitol were locked, parking lots were vacant, and many government workers stayed home. Police arrested 13 protesters on a variety of charges.

A four-block area surrounding the Sacramento Convention Center was turned into a virtual armed camp, blocked by traffic barricades and lines of officers outfitted in riot gear, flanking black armored cars.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman opened the first Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology with a buoyant speech extolling the virtues of genetically modified food as the world grapples with hunger gripping 800 million people.


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Tuesday June 24 2003
updated on Sunday September 28 2008

URL of this article:





Readers' Comments

can you give me some idea about the socio economic status of genetically modified tomato in india. if so i'll be greatful to you since i'm much interested to discuss about this topic with others. so you please help to know about this

Posted by: ezhil on March 10, 2006 11:30 AM


Hello Ezhil,

here is a list of field trials of GMO produce, including tomato, in India

An article on the social implications of GMO in India by Vandana Shiva and Afsar H Jafri

Corp Watch has an article about GMO in baby foods

Biotechnology and suicides in India

Posted by: Sepp on March 10, 2006 03:17 PM


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