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Thursday, June 20, 2002


The preoccupations of the industrialised world to protect it's agricultural interests continue to make a bad smell down in Rome. The main area of contention is that we just don't seem to give the problem of hunger the priority it deserves. Only two industrial world leaders, for example, attended, or visited the conference, in contrast to the 80 odd who attended from the developing world. We seem to have lost entirely the idea of partnership and dialogue with the third world countries, only calling on them, it seems, when we need help to combat terrorism.

In addition, while biotechnology may have far more to offer than its critics seem to recognise, it is also clear that in the short term it can do little to help small farmers in poor countries. On the contrary it can only really serve to industrialise agriculture further, and while mid-term this may be a good thing for feeding the world, it can only lead to short- and mid-term complications and social dislocation,

So while, as I pointed out yesterday, food production may be one of the recent 'success stories' in a world that's badly in need of some, the situation of the 46 or so poorest countries, or Less Developed Countries (LDCs) , as they're termed is a continuing source of extreme preoccupation, and our leaders would do much better in giving their plight a higher priority.

"Environmentalists and farmers dismissed the U.N. World Food Summit as a sham Wednesday, citing the presence of only two leaders from the industrialized world and a preordained outcome many say favors U.S. interests...........Many activists complained that the summit, which ends Thursday, was undermined from the start because only two heads of state from the developed world attended: host Premier Silvio Berlusconi and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, representing the European Union.

Most wealthy countries, including the United States, sent agriculture ministers or similar-level officials. Britain didn't even do that, sending instead the head of the "Knowledge Sharing on Special Initiatives" branch of its department for international development.

There were few official explanations for the absences, but the general consensus was that wealthier countries didn't consider the summit a priority for their leaders.....Indian farming advocate Vandana Shiva said the absence of more high-level delegations from the wealthy countries "means a failure of democracy, a failure of responsibility."

"It's not that they have abandoned the food agenda, they are trying to hijack the food agenda in the wrong direction against the will of the people," said Shiva.

She was referring to efforts by the U.S. officials who did come to use the conference to promote Washington's pro-biotech agenda.

The United States, home to several major biotech corporations, hosted a biotech panel on the sidelines of the summit, announced a major biotech conference next year, and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman touted the benefits of biotech in agriculture in her speech"
Source: Yahoo News LINK

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