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July 19, 1998
Background: From July 17 -19, 1998 the First Grassroots Gathering on Biodevastation: Genetic Engineering took place St Louis, USA. This conference was hosted by the Gateway Green Alliance, the Pure Food Campaign, and the Edmonds Institute. The Declaration was presented at the panel on Global Organizing for Citizen empowerment, and was adopted in principle in the final plenary on July 19.
The Declaration was formed throughout the Conference as a compilation of concerns expressed and statements of action proposed by the participants at the conference. It is not the final version and needs to be organized, edited and is being circulated for further clarification and strengthening.     --Joan Russo
TO BAN GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS AND CROPS, THE HUMAN GENOME DIVERSITY PROJECT, TERMINATOR GENE AND EXPLOITATION OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES FOR PRIVATE PROFIT
THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE affirms that where there is a threat to human health or to the environment, the lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent the threat. The precautionary principle has long been a tenet of international customary law and as such is required to be integrated into state law.
THE REVERSE ONUS PRINCIPLE means that where there is a reasonable apprehension that a process or product may pose a significant threat to human health or to the environment, the onus is on the proponent to establish that the product or process is safe, and serves demonstrable public needs, rather than on the opponents to demonstrate harm. Many nations have also undertaken to adhere to this principle
THE PREVENTION OF DISASTERS PRINCIPLE affirms that extreme care should be taken to prevent consequences that are likely to be unexpected, possibly long-term, and thus difficult to determine through tests. At recent international conferences, the member states of the United Nations have committed themselves to observe the Prevention of Disasters Principle including both natural human caused (anthropogenic) disasters.
THE PREVENTION OF TRANSFER TO OTHER STATES OF HARMFUL SUBSTANCES ensures that substances and activities that are harmful to human health or that cause environmental destruction will not be transferred to other states
THE PREVENTION OF ACTIVITIES THAT ARE CULTURALLY INAPPROPRIATE PRINCIPLE ensures that nothing shall be done on the lands of indigenous peoples that would cause environmental harm or be culturally inappropriate
THE INTERGENERATIONAL EQUITY PRINCIPLE ensures the rights of future generations and the right of a child to a safe environment
THE NUREMBERG PRINCIPLE holds that citizens are morally obliged to act to oppose unjust laws and unjust state actions.
These principles have been endorsed by the member states of the United Nations. Many governments have disregarded these principles in giving uncritical support to corporations engaged in genetic experimentation and in promoting genetic engineering in agribusiness applications.
The introduction of genetically modified substances is an irresponsible experiment being conducted on the entire planet, with little or no research on with respect to its effects on the environment or human health. Genetically modified organisms are by definition new life forms which, if released into the natural environment, may well have unanticipated synergistic interactions with an unlimited range of existing organisms. For instance, pollen from crops carrying the terminator gene- the gene that renders the seed from a crop infertile- may disperse and infect crops in other fields, also rendering them infertile. There are also well founded concerns about the unknown effects of introducing animal genetic material into plants which are ingested by humans.
The introduction of new organisms has potential ramifications which are complex, long-term, uncertain and ambiguous. The prevention of anthropogenic disasters must surely include avoiding the introduction of new procedures and substances with such far reaching ramifications, especially where there has been hardly any effort, let alone sufficient time to determine the nature and extent of the potential deleterious impact on health and on the environment.
Genetically altered foods will have epidemiological and toxicological properties more like drugs than like food. They must therefore be subject to tests for mutagenicity and carcenogenicity, for their effect on fetuses during pregnancy, their long-term side effects, their interactive effects with other drugs chemicals, or GM foods, and so on. In addition, they must be tested on common bacteria of the human (and other animal) microbial ecologies. We must know whether an antibiotic marker gene can pass antibiotic resistance to pathogens, or if it can recombine or transfer to bacteria or viruses, etc. These tests and their complex ramifications may be difficult or impossible to assess with sufficient certainty to justify production.
The absence of proven deleterious consequences on health and the environment must not be used to justify the production of potentially calamitous and untested substances, including genetically engineering foods.
There is sufficient concern about genetically engineered foods and sufficient anticipatory scientific concern about the possible interaction of genetically engineered crops with existing organisms to justify the banning of genetically modified foods and other organisms until their potential interaction with existing organisms has been thoroughly tested in complete isolation from the natural environment. It is possible that no test could be devised that would be comprehensive enough to demonstrate the safety of introducing genetically modified organisms, because of the complexities which can arise from their interaction with existing organisms.
OUTRAGED THAT: Government representatives at the recent meeting of the Codex Alementarius in Ottawa ignored citizens' call for urgent action to label existing genetically engineered foods, and to extend the Codex Alementarius' terms of reference to include a call for banning genetically engineered foods. The representatives of the Codex Alementarius had the unique opportunity to finally demonstrate that the global community is prepared to prevent future generations from being exposed to the effects of our negligence.
WE ARE FURTHER OUTRAGED that universities have entered into substantive contracts with pharmaceutical and agribusiness companies involved with genetically modified organisms, including genetically engineered foods; and that many pharmaceutical and agribusiness companies have been exploiting indigenous peoples' knowledge of esoteric organisms and their medicinal effects;
AND WE REJECT the myth perpetuated by Monsanto and the Biotechnology industry that the world cannot be fed without genetic engineering, and that small farmers do not feed the world.
WHILST a considerable percentage of the world's known biodiversity is located in developing countries, any effective mechanism for the protection of and reward for the local custodians of these genetic resources is being stalled by northern, industrialized nations.
THEREFORE, WE CALL UPON:
The United Nations to call upon member states of the United Nations:
The Nation States:
- to act immediately to call for the implementation of existing international declarations, conventions, covenants, treaties on human rights and the environment to support the cancellation of the human genome project, the patenting of seeds, and all further commercial exploitation of indigenous peoples and of the knowledge of indigenous peoples. and also to prevent, under the Convention on Biological Diversity,
(a) the transfer of all Genetically modified organisms, and
(b) the development of pesticide resistant crops;
- to immediately halt to harvesting genetic material of indigenous peoples and to demand that these efforts be replaced with international dedication to preserving the existence of indigenous peoples and their culture;
- to prevent "bioprospecting" -- exploiting and patenting the knowledge of indigenous peoples;
- to not defeat the purpose of the Convention on Biological Diversity by failing to invoke the precautionary principle to justify the banning of the production of genetically engineered foods;
- to recognize that conservation of Biodiversity is antithetical to the development and altering through genetic engineering;
- to prevent under the Convention on Biological Diversity the transfer of all Genetically modified organisms;
- to call for an immediate moratorium on research, development, release, and movement of genetically engineered organisms;
- to prevent under the Convention on Biological Diversity the development of pesticide resistant crops;
- to ban genetically engineered foods and immediately remove all genetically engineered foods from the food distribution system;
- to institute an immediate ban on genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone, endorsing the campaign to rid rBGH from school milk;
- to keep our forests, farms and food safe, and opposing the genetic engineering of all plants and animals;
- to abolish patents of genetic sequences and living organisms in the form of "intellectual property rights";
- to stop the national violence initiative project (u.s.), and an immediate halt to the drugging of black and latino children in the name of their supposed "genetic predisposition" to committing crimes;
- to disband the human genome diversity project and putting an end to the colonization of the genes of indigenous people;
- to immediately cease the administration of experimental and genetically engineered drugs to prisoners, people living on american indian reservations, and people in so-called "third world" countries;
- to ban "terminator" seed technology and patent and call for the immediate cessation of all "terminator" tests and a banning of its application;
- to encourage smaller-scaled organic farming, local food systems, home-scale gardening, and ecosystem restoration. the convention opposed theconsolidation of corporate and monocrop farming and their reliance on genetic engineering and toxic herbicides and insecticides;
- to urge the Grammeen bank to discontinue all further "partnerships" with Monsanto and its affiliated corporations;
- to discontinue all financial support for agribusiness, and to financially support and promote organic agriculture;
- to ensure that the designation of "organic" does not include genetically engineered food or irradiated food or related practices;
- to prevent the transfer to other state particularly developing states of substances and activities that cause environmental degradation or that are harmful to human health, and to recognize that compliance with this principle from the Rio Declaration would entail the prevention of transfer of genetically modified organisms;
- to condemn the use of genetic screening to discriminate against employees;
- to implement the 1986 UN resolution to ensure that the use of scientific technology is in peace and for the benefit of humanity;
- to guarantee the farmers right to produce seeds and to recognize this as a human right in fulfilling the guaranteed right to food;
- to call upon states to implement the right of citizens to organically grown, affordable, accessible food;
- to ensure that citizens are fed clean, nutritional organically grown food before food is authorized for export;
- to condemn the conversion of sensitive ecosystems for ranches and cattle production;
- to condemn the roundtable approach to decision making that compromises ethics, that fosters and condones conflict of interest, undermines principle and leads to the lowest common denominator;
- to act on the commitment made in 1972 to eliminate the production of weapons of mass destruction, and to enter into a binding agreement as a convention for the elimination of the production of biological weapons (to not allow vested economic interest of biotechnological and genetic engineering industries to thwart the resolve to negotiate this convention
- to endorse October 15 the Eve of World Food day as the Global Days of Action against Genetically engineered food;
The Regulatory Agencies:
- to oppose the extension of intellectual property rights to life forms, whether it be for humans, animals, plants, microorganisms, or their genes, cells or other parts;
- to change provisions in patent acts to prevent theft of biodiversity related knowledge;
- to refuse to grant patents to corporations for methods and products based on traditional practices, or other information gleaned from the collective knowledge and wisdom of indigenous peoples with respect to the medicinal use of plants and animals or any other matter without fair royalties being paid to those peoples;
- to refuse to issue patents for life forms and to refuse to recognize life form patents issued elsewhere;
- to oblige corporations to discontinue the use of the "terminator gene" which destroys the fertility of seeds;
- to transfer existing funding and support for agribusiness and for genetically engineered projects to socially equitable and environmentally sound organic agriculture;
- to implement the 1986 United Nations resolution to ensure that the use of scientific technology is in peace and for the benefit of humanity;
- to deny non profit and charitable status to NGOs that receive funding from corporations and their affiliates;
- to prevent the collusion between regulatory bodies universities and corporations;
- to condemn the practice of corporations of requiring farmers to sign gene-licencing agreements, and of hiring informers to report on farming practices;
- to guarantee the farmers right to save seeds;
- to revoke charters and licences of corporations for violation of human rights, denying social justice, destroying the environment, undermining economic self sufficiency, for contributing to conflict, violence and war;
- to ensure that regulatory agencies are not promoters of the technology The World Bank,. IMF and Development Agencies;
- to refuse to fund all agribusiness and genetically engineered food research and development;
- to fund only organic socially equitable and environmentally sound agriculture;
- to discontinue structural adjustment programs and forgive third world debt;
- to no longer conceive of the refusal to accept genetically engineered foods and seeds as a barrier to trade.
- to provide for stiff regulations preventing the development, distribution, patenting etc. of genetically engineered foods;
- to establish regulations which will phase out agribusiness and promote socially equitable and environmentally sound organic agriculture;
- to no longer conceive the refusal to accept genetically engineered foods and seeds as being a barrier to trade.
The Wholesale and Retail Industry
- to discontinue all further support research in genetically modified organisms, including genetically engineered foods;
- to cancel all existing contracts with corporations that are researching and developing genetically engineered foods;
- to voluntarily put into the public domain all existing research data so that patents based on such findings ;cannot be obtained;
- to communicate to the companies that produce genetically engineered food the refusal to carry genetically engineered foods;
- to move towards supporting and promoting organically grown products;
- to ensure that the produce is not genetically engineered and post notices to that effect;
- to refuse to sell genetically engineered foods and to communicate this refusal to companies that produce such food.
The Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
- to refuse to purchase seeds from any of the companies that engage in the research and development of genetically engineered foods;
- to ensure a larger gene pool to present seed diversity;
- to work on continued research into crops that are naturally resistant to disease
- to lobby for the banning of the "terminator" gene.
- to refuse to accept funding from corporations or corporate affiliations or front groups
- to ensure that the terms of reference in decision making processes is brad enough to address the issues related to whether the activity or substance should be engaged in or produced in the first place;
- to discourage the undermining of resolve to do what is necessary by being satisfied with what is possible or "reasonable";
- to work with farmers on mutual information and education about the hazards of Genetically engineered foods;
- to refuse to settle for half way measures and partial solutions in the quest for being reasonable.
- to urge governments, regulatory agencies, universities, and wholesale and retail industry to discontinue all further development and distribution of genetically engineered food;
- to decide not to purchase genetically engineered foods and to communicate this decision to agencies, institutions, governments, departments, and to lobby against any wholesale or retail store that carries genetically engineered foods;
- to demand the right to know:
- what products and substances have been approved for sale by governments,
- what processes products and substances have undergone in production; - what regulations are in place,
- what the reasons are for not have stiff regulations, or for not enforcing regulations,
- the nature and extent of the funding in the universities of genetically engineered companies,
- the method by which wholesale and retail stores ensure that they are not selling;
- the means to ensure that citizens are forewarned about food that has been genetically engineered;
- to expose the corruption and kick backs in institutional programs such as the World Bank;
- to expose the level of complicity of institution through interlocking directorships;
- to document PR statements of firms involved with genetic engineering, to counteract these statements and to disseminate the information;
- to appropriate corporate language, clarify it and counteract it;
- to clearly define the opposition;
- to participate and support a broad based principled citizens movement opposing genetically engineering ensuring the constant respect for social justice and human rights;
- to try to unfold the hidden dimension involved in any struggle every issue has a hidden ecological, human rights, social justice labour dimension;
- to link up with other groups but not sacrifice principle;
- to retain the moral ascendancy;
- to set up community trusts where citizens and contribute to the purchase of land, to grow organic food, to support organic farmers and undertake to purchase organic produce;
- to boycott and "boycott" all companies and their affiliates that are engaged in producing or distributing genetically engineered foods;
- to participate in the Global days of Action against genetically engineered foods (October 15 and 16);
- to engage in direct action;
- to set up counter demonstrations.
For further information, Please contact:
Joan Russow, National Leader of the Green Party of Canada