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April 27, 2008

Ban GM crops, stop agricultural liberalization to avert food crisis

An international environmental health organization has joined calls for government leaders all over the world to stop liberalization in agriculture and the of use genetically-modified crops to avert the looming food crisis as predicted by the United Nation (UN).

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) made the statement after the UN issued a warning on possible riots if the food prices continue to rise.

Fifty-five world government leaders had recently met and agreed in Johannesburg, South Africa to release a report of the first UN-organized International Assessment of Agriculture Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), discussed the problems and strategies to overcome world hunger.

In a statement, Filipino toxicologist Dr. Romeo Quijano, president of PAN Philippines and an IAASTD Bureau member, said, the green revolution of the past, with all its expensive and toxic products, has left a trail of destruction. The IAASTD essentially says its time to clean that up and move on.

The IAASTD report, which has more than 400 authors headed by Nobel laureate and scientist Robert Watson, is an unprecedented attempt to bring together multiple stakeholders from government, agro-chemical companies, scientists, health and environment advocates in the hope of making a blueprint for sustainable agriculture for the next 50 years, the statement said.

Watson and his team documented the inequitable distribution of costs and benefits of the present farming sector, including the undue influence of trans-national agribusiness, the growing impacts of environmental crises and the unfair global trade policies that result in over half of the worlds population not having enough to eat. The most widespread forms of industrial agriculture have degraded the natural resource base on which human survival depends, and contribute daily to worsening water and climate crises, the team noted.

Lead author Marcia Ishii Eiteman of PAN North America said what happened in the agricultural sector is a wake-up call for governments and international agencies. The survival of the planet's food systems demands global action to support agro-ecological farming and fair and equitable trade.

Kevin Akoyi of PAN Uganda supported the findings and said, "We can produce more and better food without destroying rural livelihoods and our natural resources."

The report called on government leaders to develop small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods to avert the food crisis.

Dr. Quijano said that during their meeting, they had agreed in principle that genetically-modified crops are not the solution of the spiraling food prices and hunger. People of every nation have the right to determine their best food and agricultural policies, he added.

Dr. Prabha Mahale, an IAASTD member from India and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, emphasized that the scientific evidence gives unequivocal support to organic agriculture which is seen as a credible solution and a sustainable production method for the 21st century.

The report also criticized the move of government leaders who allowed the opening of national markets to international competition which can lead to long-term negative effects on poverty alleviation, food security and the environment.

However, countries like Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have yet to sign the report considering that it was against on export-oriented and import-dependent agriculture.

Just as climate change is an inconvenient truth, only the worlds agro-chemical companies will find our recommendations inconvenient, Quijano said.

Quijano said while civil society groups like himself may not fully agree with some of the conclusions, they unanimously respect the fact that this report reflects the current consensus among participants.

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