Genetic engineering expensive, ineffective
Critics of Oxfam’s support to GM crops for the Third World

Dear Friends at Oxfam, I have just received a copy of your position on GMOs and WTO [World Trade Organisation], and it has saddened and disappointed me.

While Oxfam has been an NGO [Non-Government Organisation] leader on food security issues, and it has been part of the mobilisation for a moratorium on G.M. [Genetically-Modified] crops in U.K. [United Kingdom], it is now calling for donor support for developing of G.M. technologies in developing countries.

Oxfam sees the "need for public investment and incentives to promote private investment in G.M. research and innovation benefiting poor farmers and low income consumers".

Open letter to OXFAM, from e-mail
By Dr. Vandana Shiva 4th Nov 1999, Director,
Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, New Delhi

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In its position paper on "G.M. crops, WTO and Food Security", Oxfam recommends,

Donor governments and agencies commit resources for investment in research into the potential opportunities presented by applications of G.M. to deliver environmental and health benefits pertaining to small-holder agriculture in adverse agroecological zones.

We feel that Oxfam risks betraying the South [i.e., the Third World], the poor, and food security objectives by calling for support for promotion of G.M. crops in the South, instead of calling for support for ecological and sustainable agriculture which is much better suited to the small farmers in adverse agroecological zones.

Research from our own programmes in India and studies worldwide are countering the myth that ecological agriculture has low productivity and low returns. Farmers in fact have a tripling of incomes by getting off the chemical treadmill and getting out of the debt trap created by purchase of costly seeds and chemicals.

Because G.E. free agriculture is good for the poor and good for the environment, we have launched the "Bija Satyagraha" which includes the creation of G.E. [Genetic Engineering]-free zones in agriculture as part of the National Food Rights Campaign in India, in which more than 2,500 groups participate.

As a leading NGO funder and development agency, we hope Oxfam will join our call for freedom from G.E. in the South. Oxfam should join the worldwide campaign for promoting alternatives to both chemical agriculture and genetic engineering while calling for a moratorium on G.M. crops.

The focus on promotion of G.M. crops in the Third World, and the total absence of recommendations relating to the promotion of sustainable, ecological agriculture will on the one hand deprive the poor of ecological, decentralised production systems. On the other hand it carries a major risk of creating a nutritional apartheid - with northern consumers having G.E. free foods and the poor in the South being condemned to a future based on G.E. crops and foods.

At this juncture in history, we need a joining of environment and development concerns, we need a combining of producer and consumer interests, we need North-South solidarity. With such a joining of forces, people's power will be successful in controlling the corporate Biotechnology giants and promoting ecological options for small farmers.

We hope Oxfam will review its G.M. policy for the Third World and be part of the global movement for a sustainable and equitable agriculture.

Oxfam spends #13m a year on projects linked to crop production. It provides #10m assistance for food aid and trades in 60 food products through the Oxfam Fair Trade Company. It, therefore, has an influential role in setting food security agendas.

Oxfam will definitely be assisting to provide relief in the recent disaster caused by the super cyclone in Orissa. We hope your food aid will be G.E. free and that in the rehabilitation programmes you will help distribute open-pollinated varieties and indigenous varieties of seeds so that farmers are not made dependent on costly inputs.

We look forward to working with Oxfam on these urgent issues.

Yours sincerely, Vandana Shiva

From: Dr. Vandana Shiva, 4th Nov 99, Director, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology,  A-60, Hauz Khas, New Delhi - 110 017, India; Fax: 0091 11 6856795;
Copied from the Open Letter to Oxfam, "OXFAM's Support to GM Crops for the Third World," e-mail dated: Mon, 08 Nov 1999 12:53:44 +0500

Oxfam's recommendation 2 is opposed in the above.  However, recommendation 1 is: Oxfam supports an international moratorium on the commercial growing of GM crops. Full document
Oxfam International is at  6kb  2pp  08 Nov 1999, revised 18 Dec 99, last modified by using "clever apostrophe" 20 Oct 00
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