Picture of Marcia Ishii

Marcia Ishii

Occupy Rio+20

Governments are gathering in Brazil, twenty years after the historic 1992 Earth Summit where nations around the world pledged to devote themselves to ending hunger and conserving the planet’s resources for future generations.

This week, governments gather once again, and food and agriculture are high on the agenda of “Rio+20.” Global leaders will be discussing which way forward to feed the world amidst growing food, climate and water crises. Monsanto & Co. have geared up with slick websites and sound bytes — to the point where some have dubbed the official meeting “Greenwash +20.” But the good news is that people around the world are mobilizing like never before for a new food system.

What, GE won’t feed the world?!

The first Rio gathering in 1992 marked an important historical moment when nations came together with inspiring goals and commitments to keep our planet from going off the rails and to save and replenish the ecosystems that are required for life to continue. But 20 years on, the report card on progress is bleak, and tragically, this meeting (like Copenhagen and too many others) promises more hot air and no progress.

Of profound concern is the undue influence exerted by multinational corporations who have entered the “sustainability” and “green” debate with predictable zeal. The recently released report Greenwash +20 documents how multinational corporate interests thwart government action toward real sustainable development. In food and agriculture, the report exposes the Big 6 player Syngenta, in particular, for its role in suppressing science, influencing the public conversation to bolster profits, and shadow-writing public policy. 

Despite the best attempts of the Big 6 pesticide/biotech companies to persuade us that their toxic chemicals and expensive patented seeds are needed, here’s the real deal: GE crops haven’t delivered on 20 years of empty promises. No yield gains, no drought-tolerance, no nutritional improvement.

Rather, farmers signing contracts with Big 6 players have lost their land and their right to save and exchange seed, have fallen deeper into debt, seen their communities wither, stores shuttered, schools closed…The greatest benefits from the sale of GE seeds and the pesticides that go with them have consistently accrued to their manufacturers, companies like Monsanto which more than doubled its profits at the height of the global food price crisis of 2008. We know this to be true from the words of farmers — whether in Iowa or India — and from the hard facts presented to us by independent scientists.

People Power

The heartening news is that farmers and scientists around the world know better than to believe the Biotech Brigade. From Berkeley to Brazil, there is incredible momentum gathering like never before to democratize our food system. This momentum is manifested in the thousands of people gathering at the People’s Summit in Rio. Here peasant farmers, community and social movement leaders, policy advocates, researchers and academics are sharing their knowledge and stories of how communities and entire nations are building strong and vibrant local and regional food systems without buying into corporate dependency.

This “unofficial” meeting, already going on, is where the smarts and solutions lie. Two full days will be dedicated to agroecology and the science and organizing required to build an ecologically sane and democratic food and farming system. While official meetings miles away in walled-off rooms promise entrenchment and false hope, the agroecology meeting has sparked the analysis and relationship-building needed to fuel our movement for change.

Here are some exciting products already coming out of Rio:

The global people’s gathering in Rio shows that there’s more movement than ever for Food Democracy. It’s up to us to create this change. Here are three ways to engage today:

  • Sign the statement from Occupy Rio+20.
  • Join PAN’s alert list, where you’ll get updates on how to take action for food democracy and a healthy planet. Right now, we’re supporting the brave Mothers of Argentina vs. Monsanto in our online action with the White House.
  • Play “Game Change Rio,” a game that raises awareness of the issues we’ll need to address if future generations are to enjoy life on this planet. (Demo video here).

As the leader of PAN’s Food Democracy campaign team, I’m thrilled by the public conversations taking place in Rio and the momentum powering social movements around the world. Join us.

Picture of Marcia Ishii

Marcia Ishii

Marcia Ishii is director of PAN’s Grassroots Science Program and a Senior Scientist with a background in insect ecology and pest management. Her campaign work focuses on supporting and strengthening agroecology movements and policies in the U.S. and globally, in addition to challenging corporate control of our food and seed systems. Follow @MarciaIshii

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