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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

Dear Sirs:

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” projects.

Sincerely yours,

Michele Perrault, International Vice President

The Sierra Club (US)

Steve Hazell, Executive Director

Sierra Club Canada


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