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JOINT LETTER TO CHANNEL FOUR TELEVISION AND THE TIMES NEWSPAPER, UK:

IN PROTEST TO DOCUMENTARY, (EQUINOX, 19TH MARCH 2000) AND ARTICLE (GM FOODS AND THE LUXURY OF CHOICE, 21ST MARCH 2000), USING SOUTHERN SCIENTISTS TO MAKE EUROPEANS FEEL GUILTY FOR NOT SUPPORTING GENETIC ENGINEERING.


LETTERS FROM TEWOLDE:

USING THE SOUTH TO PROMOTE GE IN EUROPE - ONCE AGAIN!

Dear Colleagues,

Whilst I was in the UK recently, I watched a documentary on British Channel Four Television, which portrayed Africa's poverty and implied that the average British housewife's resistance to genetically engineered (GE) food would prevent the South from receiving the benefits of GE. The argument was that biotechnology could solve Africa's rural poverty and could eliminate malnutrition and undernutrition if the development of their genetic engineering were not rejected in Europe. Interviews with scientists from Kenya, India and Mexico were used to show what wonderful solutions to these problems would come from genetic engineering. This was supported by the enclosed article in The Times newspaper.

We, as informed Southerners, know that the South's poverty is caused by deep-seated structural economic imbalances which were established during the periods of slavery and colonialism and are continuing now. We know that though individual technological inputs can help in food production, given that other conditions are equally as important, those single technological inputs are insignificant on their own.

Since it is the transnational corporations which are the beneficiaries of the long history of inequity that has plagued us in our position of disadvantage, I believe that it is our responsibility to reject such a misleading oversimplification of the solution to our problem; especially the use of our condition, by those very beneficiaries of the inequity, to justify the continuation of the benefits that they derive.

Action:

For this reason, I have drafted the attached letter of protest and request that you please sign on to this. The advantage of a joint letter is that we can use it in other fora should it be necessary to counter such misinformation.

** To sign on please send a note to me:

(sustain@telecom.net.et) and copy
to The Gaia Foundation (gaia@gaianet.org)
and include your name, profession and Country.

** If you have time please also send your own
letter to the Editor of The Times Newspaper
(letters@the-times.co.uk).

Best wishes,

Tewolde Behran Gebre Egzhiaber
Spokesperson for Africa and the Like-Minded Group
in the Biosafety Negotiations

*****************************************

JOINT LETTER TO CHANNEL FOUR TELEVISION AND THE TIMES NEWSPAPER, UK:

IN PROTEST TO DOCUMENTARY, (EQUINOX, 19TH MARCH 2000) AND ARTICLE (GM FOODS AND THE LUXURY OF CHOICE, 21ST MARCH 2000), USING SOUTHERN SCIENTISTS TO MAKE EUROPEANS FEEL GUILTY FOR NOT SUPPORTING GENETIC ENGINEERING.

Dear....................,

We the undersigned, are appalled at the use made of the poverty of the rural people of the South to justify genetically modified food to Northern consumers. We are appalled for the following reasons:

1. Poverty in the South is structurally rooted in the prevalent North-South relationships. The present systems of international resource control, commodity pricing, education, training, research, finance, banking, insurance, transportation etc. are all components of the system that controls wealth and poverty, and which started being put in place during the slavery and colonial periods and have matured in this post-colonial period. Southern poverty, especially rural poverty, is a consequence of this.

2. As such, the solution to rural poverty lies in a multidimensional corrective measure that would enable sufficient local control of the appropriation of the benefits that arise from the use of and trade in resources, as well as the application of labour.

3. The assumption that the complex rural poverty that afflicts the South, would be amenable to solution through single technological inputs is grossly incorrect and totally objectionable since it would misdirect efforts.

4. Though technological inputs have a role to play in rural development, and genetic engineering could be a technology to consider, it would remain but one technology among many. For example even if potential yields of food crops were to be dramatically improved, if storage, transportation, marketing, distribution, and the ability to buy the food were not simultaneously improved, the effort would still remain ineffective. In fact, as we keep pointing out, it is not shortage of food that is the problem, but it's distribution. More GE food is not the point: it is improving access and local food security. But corporations do not profit from such solutions.

5. There are high yielding varieties in rural areas but their impacts remain limited by the bottlenecks imposed by many of the other variables. The agricultural research stations that are found in Southern countries have also produced many such varieties and the potentials of these varieties remain unrealised because of the other negative factors. But research must continue so that there will always be higher yielding varieties to have their potential impacts realised as and when conditions allow it. It is a gross oversimplification to state that such seed would solve rural food problems. The picture is the same with seed of improved nutritional quality such as vitamin A rice.

6. At the heart of the inequity that maintains the present poverty of the South is the inherited positive advantage that the Northern transnational corporations enjoy. We consider the use of the South's rural poverty to justify the monopoly control and global use of genetically modified food production by the North's transnational corporations, not only an obstructive lie, but a way of derailing the solutions to our Southern rural poverty. It is the height of cynical abuse of the corporations' position of advantage. Channel Four Television and The Times newspaper should be ashamed for allowing themsleves to be so manipulated into trying effectively to emotionally blackmail the UK public into using GE.

Yours sincerely,

 ............................

 


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