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GMO's, Agri-Business and the FTAA

Scrap the FTAA! Support sustainable, pro-farmer food systems that feed people, not corporations!

Expansion of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

The biotech industry and the governments of GMO producing countries (US, Canada and Argentina) plan to use the FTAA to force open markets for their unwanted GMO crops. The FTAA will be used to put regulatory policies on food and agriculture in the hands of the WTO and to prevent any country from invoking the precautionary principle to protect its citizens. The intentions were clearly spelled out in the FTAA's San Jose Ministerial Declaration of 1998, which states that regulations on food "will only be applied to achieve the appropriate level of protection for human, animal or plant life or health, will be based on scientific principles, and will not be maintained without sufficient evidence." Since the responsibility is on their regulatory bodies to prove that GMOs are not safe, countries will be forced to accept GMOs even though conclusive studies do not exist.

The FTAA will also undermine the rights of countries as established in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity - signed into being in January 2000 in Montreal. The Protocol recognises the sovereign right of nations to refuse GMOs for safety reasons, and for "socio-economic considerations arising from the impact of living modified organisms on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, especially with regard to the value of biological diversity to indigenous and local communities." These rights will not be upheld by WTO dispute panels or the narrow-minded trade delegations orchestrating the FTAA agreement.

Patenting of Life

There is a clear move on the part of the US to use the FTAA to force countries to implement patent regimes on life. The US and its biotech industry are frustrated by the slow and inconsistent implementation of intellectual property regimes on living organisms as mandated by the WTO's Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). They are using a range of unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral tactics to push countries to comply with their demands. The FTAA is high on their agenda. If the US position on intellectual property rights is adopted, all countries of the Americas will have to grant patents on life- including plants, animals and humans.

Patents on life violate the cultures and traditions that have guided agriculture since its very beginnings. The wealth of genetic resources that we depend on has been carefully protected and nurtured by generations of farmers and indigenous peoples and it is their fundamental right to conserve, develop, use, control, and benefit from this biodiversity. Farmers' rights form the basis of sustainable agriculture and ensure global food security and well being. On the other hand, intellectual property rights, such as patents, undermine the rights of farmers and indigenous people by giving monopoly rights to corporations that simply repackage, or re-engineer, the collective knowledge and the plant and animal varieties of farmers and indigenous communities. The inevitable result is genetic erosion, increased use of chemicals and GMOs, and the loss of food security and culture. In the words of Via Campesina, an international movement of peasants, small farmers, agricultural workers, rural women, and indigenous communities: "Patents on life have to be abolished and different juridical frameworks have to be developed that respect the collective character of these rights and that respect the free access to genetic resources."

Corporate Control

The FTAA is designed to undermine collective forms of support for farmers and sustainable agriculture, in order to facilitate the expansion of agribusiness. The proponents use a language of fair trade, but the real objective of the FTAA is to dismantle everything from marketing boards and tariffs that can protect farmers from aggressive monopoly capital to public support for organic agriculture and local food systems. The FTAA threatens to wipe out whatever gains farmers, indigenous peoples, and other people of the Americas have won in their on-going struggles for land, fair prices for farm products, decent working conditions, sustainable rural communities, environmental protection, and food security.

The FTAA is essentially a means to expand export agriculture and commodify all aspects of food production and consumption in the interests of the handful of pesticide/seed and food TNCs that dominate the global food system. The FTAA comes when the problems with the global food system and its intensive, industrial model of production have never been more obvious: environmental degradation and pollution, genetic erosion, land grabbing and displacement of peoples, malnutrition and lack of access to food, and the destruction of small farms and rural communities. While the need for radical change has never been more urgent, the FTAA will force the current corporate-controlled food system down our collective throats, with all the chemicals, hormones, and GMOs that it requires! | alca | Plan Puebla-Panamá |