Sierra Club of Canada letter protesting World
Bank push for GMOs
Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, President
The World Bank
all Executive Directors of the World Bank
The Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental organization
in the US, together with the Sierra Club Canada, is concerned
about your involvement, together with the Global Environmental Facility,
in biotech “harmonization” programs in Africa and Latin
America. We believe these so called “capacity building”
programs will be both bad for the environment and bad for economic
development. We are asking you to reassess your involvement and,
based on that reassessment, to remove your support from them.
The issues involved include how food is produced and how it is
distributed, which are among the most important issues which have
faced societies ever since the Agricultural Revolution some 100
centuries ago. The role of the World Bank in this is ostensibly
to facilitate the spread of a new agricultural technology on the
grounds that it could help farmers to grow more and to feed more
people. We believe, however, that those most in need will be harmed
by these projects, while those who have no need for assistance will
be the only ones to profit.
Genetically engineered (GE) agriculture is an extension of industrialized
agriculture which has been chiefly successful in allowing increased
herbicide use (in the herbicide tolerant crops) or which incorporates
pesticides within the crop. If anything is saved, it’s human
labor, which makes GE crops more suited to countries with higher
labor costs and to export-oriented commodity farming. In countries
which have a problem feeding their populations, import of cheap
commodity products, often subsidized, impoverish local farmers and
exacerbate problems. If crops for export are developed, this also
implies an export of calories and makes problems worse.
In any case, nations have a right to food sovereignty and “helping”
them to “achieve” regional biosafety procedures advances
the agenda of international agricultural trade, which profits those
who want to earn foreign exchange more than it does those who want
to grow food for their families or to contribute to feeding their
own village, province or nation. It is anti-democratic and preemptive
in that it serves those who already own the new technology and want
to profit from it, rather than moving appropriate resources and
tools into the hands of the poor whom you should be helping.
More, it profits the patent-holders from countries which have developed
GE technology – a case in which those who start the race first
are allowed to start every subsequent race with a cumulative advantage.
At the same time it penalizes farmers by taking away their centuries
old right to save seed. This is a “taking” on a truly
vast scale, perhaps the most significant agricultural taking since
the Agricultural Revolution made human civilization possible.
The World Bank should not be involved in smoothing the way for
a genetically engineered agriculture which benefits patent holders
in rich nations at the expense of poor farmers and which attempts
to calm or to bypass the genuine opposition of most people and most
nations to this further industrialization of their diet.
Rather, the rights afforded to nations under the Biosafety Protocol
should be respected, including importantly the Precautionary Principle
and the right of nations to make individual Biosafety decisions
on a case by case basis, respecting the rights of their own populations
and in accordance with their own natural environmental conditions
and concerns, and with ongoing public participation.
Again, please don’t participate in these regional “biosafety”
Michele Perrault, International Vice President
The Sierra Club (US)
Steve Hazell, Executive Director
Sierra Club Canada