Monsanto wins 'Roger' Award for worst TNC

Geneva, May 3 (TWN) -- The transnational giant Monsanto, leading a crusade for expansion and control in genetic engineering in agriculture, has been chosen by a panel of judges in new Zealand for the 'Roger' award, an annual event to single out transnational corporation which have had the most negative impact in the country.

The award ceremony -- organized by Corso, GATT Watchdog, and the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa -- and being held in Christchurch (New Zealand) Wednesday, is part of a programme of events opposed to the meetings of APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation).

The annual award is given to the transnational corporation judged to have had the most negative impact in New Zealand in each or all of the following fields: unemployment, monopoly, profiteering, abuse of workers/conditions; political interference; environmental damage; cultural imperialism, pursuing an ideological crusade; impact on women; and the health and safety of workers and the public.

"This US corporate giant is not only seeking to control and monopolise the production of agricultural produce in the global economy, it is also responsible for promoting research and development on a wide range of genetically engineered products that have the potential to irreversibly alter and damage the ecosystem of the planet and the food supply of future generations."

"This threat needs to be take seriously by New Zealanders as Monsanto is already petitioning the Environment Risk Management Agency (ERMA) to grow genetically modified Canola over several hundred hectares on North Canterbury and Southland farms to produce seeds for the Canadian market."

According to Corso, more worrying was the establishment of a Crown Institute/Monsanto quango, Gene Pool, with the backing of the Royal Society (representing the scientific establishment) to campaign for New Zealand to become a site in the development of genetic engineering. Such a strategy is also backed by Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

"It seems that just as the 1980s saw New Zealand become the testing ground for neo-liberalism or 'Reaganomics', so the country is to become a laboratory for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the 21st century, the effects of which could be devastating for the environment, food supply, and population," the Corso statement noted.

Leigh Cookson, a spokeswoman for the Roger award organizers, said, "In the year that the government hosts APEC, it is well worth noting that Monsanto actively participates in APEC's Agricultural Technical Cooperation Experts' Group Committee, especially in its biotechnology workshops.

"APEC is just one of the tools being used to expand the rights of corporations like Monsanto to maximise their profits regardless of the costs to peoples and the environment," she added. "The Roger award is one way to hold big business accountable and generate some much needed debate about the role of transnational corporations in New Zealand."

The judges also gave Fletcher Challenge a 'dishonourable award' because of 'the negative impact of the company's forestry and pulp and paper operations in the Central North Island which have inflicted so much damage on indigenous communities..despite claims to the contrary, the sale of the former ForestCorp has led to many job losses in communities such as Rotorua, Kaingaroa, and Taupo.'

Tranz rail received a 'continuity award' for "the company's persistent failure to address its appalling safety record, for which it received the inaugural 1997 Roger award. (SUNS4429)

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