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Synthesis/Regeneration 17   (Fall 1998)

African Scientists Condemn Monsanto's Latest Tactics

Monsanto published an advertisement as part of its controversial 1 million advertising campaign. The ad is to persuade the European public that biotech will feed the world's growing population.

More than 24 leading African agriculturalists and environmental scientists representing their countries at the UN have issued a statement to counter Monsanto's arguments. They say Monsanto is using the poor to emotionally blackmail skeptical Europeans by making claims which are blatantly untrue and unproved.

"We do not believe that such companies or gene technologies will help our farmers to produce the food that is needed in the 21st century. On the contrary, we think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millennia and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves."

The African statement calls on Europeans and others to stand in solidarity to resist the gene technology, es-pecially the Terminator Technology which destroys the capacity of seed to reproduce itself.

"This is a crime against nature and humanity and should be resisted and terminated" said Dr. Tewolde Gebre Egziabher, African spokesperson in many international fora. Prof. Wangari Mathai of the Green Belt Movement Kenya said: "History has many records of crimes against humanity, which were also justified by dominant commercial interests and governments of the day. Despite protests from citizens, social justice for the common good was eroded in favour of private profits. Today, patenting of life forms and the genetic engineering which it stimulates, is being justified on the grounds that it will benefit society, especially the poor, by providing better and more food and medicine. But in fact, by monopolizing the 'raw' biological materials, the development of other options is deliberately blocked. Farmers therefore, become totally dependent on the corporations for seeds."

The African statement comes amid growing controversy in the UK over genetically engineered crops. Many groups are now supporting calls for a 5-year moratorium on the commercial growing and sale of genetically en-gineered crops. A recent survey of the guardians of middle England, the members of the National Federation of Women's Institutes, showed that 92.9% of those surveyed felt that more control should be exercised over the multinational companies involved! France ordered a moratorium on genetically engineered crops and Grameen Bank in Bangladesh withdrew support for its planned partnership with Monsanto because of environmental concerns.

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