The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
U.S. State Department Exposed For Pushing Biotech Seed Industry's Global Agenda
Today, Food & Water Watch and its European project, Food & Water Europe, released the first comprehensive analysis of the U.S. government’s strategy, tactics and foreign policy objectives to promote pro-agricultural biotechnology policies worldwide. Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda examines more than 900 State Department diplomatic cables from 2005 to 2009 and details how the U.S. State Department lobbies foreign governments to adopt pro-agricultural biotechnology policies and laws, operates a rigorous public relations campaign to improve the image of biotechnology and challenges commonsense biotechnology safeguards and rules—including opposing genetically engineered (GE) food labeling laws.
“The U.S. Department of State is selling seeds instead of democracy,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “This report provides a chilling snapshot of how a handful of giant biotechnology companies are unduly influencing U.S. foreign policy and undermining our diplomatic efforts to promote security, international development and transparency worldwide. This report is a call to action for Americans because public policy should not be for sale to the highest bidder.”
“An overwhelming number of farmers in the developing world reject biotech crops as a path to sustainable agricultural development or food sovereignty," said Ben Burkett, president of the National Family Farm Coalition, a U.S. member of the international peasant farmer organization, La Via Campesina. "The biotech agriculture model using costly seeds and agrichemicals forces farmers onto a debt treadmill that is neither economically nor environmentally viable.”
The State Department’s efforts impose the policy objectives of the largest biotech seed companies on often skeptical or resistant governments and their citizens, and exemplifies thinly veiled corporate diplomacy. Of the 926 diplomatic cables analyzed, seven percent mention specific biotech companies and six percent mention Monsanto specifically. The State Department promoted the commercialization of specific seeds, acted to quash public criticism of particular companies and facilitated negotiations between foreign governments and seed companies like Monsanto over issues like patents and intellectual property. This corporate diplomacy was nearly twice as common as diplomatic efforts on food aid, which was mentioned in only four percent of the cables.
“It’s not surprising that Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow want to maintain and expand their control of the $15 billion global biotech seed market, but it’s appalling that the State Department is complicit in supporting their goals despite public and government opposition in several countries,” said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of Organic Consumers Association. “American taxpayer’s money should not be spent advancing the goals of a few giant biotech companies.”
Food & Water Watch’s report delineates the State Department’s charm offensive to promote biotech crops and pro-biotech policies, often in close collaboration with the biotech seed companies. The report provides a detailed account of the State Department’s participation at nearly 170 agricultural biotech conferences and events, sponsorship or coordination of 17 junkets for journalists and opinion-makers, and other ways that the agency uses its diplomatic prestige and bully pulpit to pressure foreign governments to adopt pro-biotechnology policies and products.
“This report provides yet another distressing example of how Monsanto and its ilk have a stranglehold over the global food supply and how it does everything it can—including influence U.S. diplomacy—to silence people who only want to make informed choices about the food they feed their families,” said Pamm Larry, a leader of the U.S. national grassroots movement to label GE foods and the initial instigator of Proposition 37, a California ballot initiative to label genetically engineered foods that was narrowly defeated at the polls last November. “As we fight for the mandatory labeling of GE foods here in the U.S., it’s important that we also shed light on the ways that the pro-GE seed agenda is being forced upon other countries—because knowledge is power.”
The report closely examines the State Department’s role in promoting biotech seeds in the developing world, where many nations have not approved GE crops. Despite the high cost of biotech seeds and the associated agrichemicals, the State Department has been pressuring countries to adopt policies that would give the biotech seed companies a beachhead in the developing world. The report examines the State Department’s role in lobbying the governments of Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria to pass pro-biotech laws.
“The State Department should not be flexing its diplomatic muscle to impose biotech crops on the developing world,” said Hauter. “Today, the U.S. government is secretly negotiating major trade deals with Europe and the countries of the Pacific Rim that would force skeptical and unwilling countries to accept biotech imports, commercialize biotech crops and prevent the labeling of GE foods. This madness must stop; the U.S. government should not be a shill for the largest biotech seed companies.”
The report concludes with the recommendation that all countries should have the right to establish their own acceptance of biotech crops and foods free from U.S. interference, and suggests how the State Department should approach agricultural development to put the interests of other countries before the interests of the biotech seed companies.
Visit EcoWatch’s GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Brian Barth
Late fall, after the last crops have been harvested, is a time to rest and reflect on the successes and challenges of the gardening year. But for those whose need to putter around in the garden doesn't end when cold weather comes, there's surely a few lingering chores. Get them done now and you'll be ahead of the game in spring.
By Bailey Hopp
If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.
(R) The measles virus pictured under a microscope. PHIL / CDC
The Pacific Island nation of Samoa declared a state of emergency this week, closed all of its schools and limited the number of public gatherings allowed after a measles outbreak has swept across the country of just 200,000 people, according to Reuters.
By Alison Cagle
Rising above the Arizona desert, the Santa Rita Mountains cradle 10,000 years of Indigenous history. The Tohono O'odham Nation, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and Hopi Tribe, among numerous other tribes, have worshipped, foraged, hunted and laid their ancestors to rest in the mountains for generations.
Native Americans are disproportionately without access to clean water, according to a new report, "Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States: A National Action Plan," to be released this afternoon, which shows that more than two million Americans do not have access to access to running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater services.
By Nanticha Ocharoenchai
In the Czech Republic, horses have become the knights in shining armor. A study published in the Journal for Nature Conservation suggests that returning feral horses to grasslands in Podyjí National Park could help boost the numbers of several threatened butterfly species.