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A Global Citizen’s Declaration
for Biosafety and Food Security
Resolution of the 7th International Gathering on Biodevastation,
St. Louis, Missouri, USA, May 16–18, 2003,
Seven years after the first commercial introduction of genetically engineered (GE) foods, most people around the world still firmly reject this technology. Only four countries are growing nearly all of the world’s genetically engineered crops, and only four basic GE crops (corn, soy, cotton and canola) are being grown commercially on a large scale. More than 35 countries around the world, including the entire European Union, have taken steps to restrict the growing and importation of GE crops, and require labeling of all foods with genetically engineered ingredients.
Promises that genetic engineering will feed the world, reduce chemical use, and benefit farmers have proven entirely false. Countries in the global South that have experimented with GE crops have found their introduction to be a dismal failure, as illustrated last year by the complete failure of Bt cotton crops in several locations in India. Now is a time to thoroughly revisit this technology and fully assess its real consequences for our health, the environment, and social equity around the world.
Instead, the US administration has proceeded to initiate a suit at the level of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to pressure the European Union to lift its five-year moratorium on new GE food varieties and strict limits on imports of GE products. Once again, US-based agribusiness companies, the biotechnology industry, and their political allies in Washington are seeking to force this failed and inherently hazardous technology on the peoples of the world.
The biotechnology industry and its allies would compel us to overlook the hazard of new allergens and spreading antibiotic resistance, of likely immune system and digestive system damage, of contamination of neighboring crops and their wild relatives, of known harm to beneficial organisms in the environment, and of new combinations of genetic traits wreaking unforeseen and largely unexamined ecological disruptions. They want us to forget how they have terrorized farmers with their lawsuits, threats and surveillance, and how farmers in the global South are suffering from dependencies on unaffordable chemical inputs that GE varieties would only increase their dependence upon.
They would have us look aside while they impose patent regimes that reduce everything alive to commercial products that exist only to be bought, sold, and traded in a captive global marketplace.
We declare our support for the right of European countries to continue protecting the health of their people and their environments by continuing to refuse these hazardous products. We also assert the fundamental right of people in the United States, where more than three quarters of the world’s GE crops are grown, to join others around the world in their rejection of this technology. Monsanto and other biotechnology companies have opposed all steps toward GE food and seed labeling at the federal and state levels and undermined the work of every independent scientist who questions genetic engineering. We have now learned that Monsanto is budgeting $10 million a year to sustain its program of harassment and lawsuits against US and Canadian farmers.
Promises that genetic engineering will feed the world, reduce chemical use, and benefit farmers have proven entirely false.
Further, during the Biodevastation gathering in St. Louis, we have seen the local police in Monsanto’s hometown of St. Louis subject peaceful protestors, bicyclists and traveling performers to an unprecedented level of harassment, with paramilitary-style raids on activists’ homes and offices and at least 30 “pre-emptive” arrests. This affirms what we have known for a long time—that the biotechnology industry can only do its dirty work in a climate of suppressed public debate, political corruption and intimidation. The more people learn about the hazards of genetic engineering, the more they oppose it; therefore genetically engineered agriculture has become incompatible with democracy itself.
As people around the world continue to reject genetically engineered food and crops—and the market value of companies like Monsanto continues to decline precipitously—biotechnology is being given a new lease on life through ever more dangerous new applications. Corn and other food crops are being genetically engineered to produce pharmaceutical proteins and, in the name of “fighting terrorism,” we are seeing an unprecedented expansion of biological warfare research here in the United States. This, at a time when the rapid spread of the SARS epidemic reminds the world that infectious diseases can spread extremely rapidly and respect no boundaries.
With these disturbing realities in mind, we declare our support for the following:
1. We support the right of European countries to continue their moratorium on new GE crop varieties, and affirm the right of all peoples to take necessary precautionary measures to protect their health and the environment;
2. We condemn the US intervention at the level of the WTO to try to force the lifting of the de facto European moratorium;
3. We pledge to intervene in all appropriate international forums to condemn the US/WTO action, and affirm the right of all peoples to adopt precautionary measures similar to those that have been implemented in Europe;
4. We support the people from across the US and around the world who will be gathering in Sacramento, California at the end of June to expose the USDA sponsored meeting of agriculture and trade ministers, a meeting designed to promote the U.S. agribusiness and biotechnology agenda at the upcoming WTO Ministerial in Cancun, Mexico;
5. We demand a full, independent assessment of the actual performance of GE crops to date, as well as the full range of hazards of genetic engineering for human health and all of life on earth;
6. We demand that the commercial developers of hazardous chemicals and genetic engineering technologies be held fully liable for the legacy of toxic and biological contamination that they have created;
7. We support a strengthening of the international Biological Weapons Convention, whose full implementation has been systematically undermined by the US administration, and demand a regime of open international inspection of all facilities engaged in research using pathogenic organisms and their DNA;
8. We call for an end to the terror tactics of the biotechnology industry and its supporters, including legal assaults on farmers, campaigns to discredit dissenting scientists, and incitement of police to attack and harass those who exercise democratic rights of free speech.
9. We urge an end to the continuing waste of public funds to support the research agendas of the biotechnology industry, and instead pledge to devote our resources to the furtherance of safe, ecologically sound alternatives in both agriculture and health care, alternatives that merge the best of traditional knowledge and systematic, independent scientific investigation.
[6 sep 03]