PANNA: Voices From the South Debunk GE Myths


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Voices From the South Debunk GE Myths
June 20, 2003

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,

Contact: PANNA.

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