New Bill Supporting Patented Seeds Divides Aid Groups

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A new push for federal funding of genetically-modified (GM) crops has touched off a battle among non-profit organizations seeking to help developing countries and ease world hunger. On one side is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Chicago Council for Global Affairs, which supported a study calling for the federal government to finance new agricultural biotechnology research. Using this study, Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Robert Casey (D-PA) have introduced the Global Food Security Act (SB 384), which would direct more than $7 billion in government subsidies to biotech companies for development of new GM crops.

 
According to Annie Shattuck, a policy analyst at the Institute for Food and Development Policy, the Lugar-Casey Act is part of a “new Green Revolution,” similar to the one launched in the 1950s and 1960s that managed to increase global food production by 11%. The original Green Revolution, however, did not halt per capita hunger from rising because the new technologies it promoted (fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, and machinery) were expensive and out of reach for many farmers in the developing world. Shattuck adds that the new Green Revolution represented by the Lugar-Casey bill suffers from similar problems in that GM crops are owned by biotech corporations and purchasing seeds often is too costly for small farming operations throughout the world.
 
Other aid groups, including The World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), conducted their own study (International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development) that concluded that industrial agriculture, including GM crops, does not adequately address world hunger problems and often exacerbates social and environmental harm. This assessment that argues policymakers should focus on land reform, agro-ecological techniques, building local economies, local control of seeds, and farmer-led participatory breeding programs.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
Global Food Security Act (by Annie Shattuck, Foreign Policy in Focus)
Why the Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act will Fail to Curb Hunger (by Annie Shattuck and Eric Holt-Giménez, Food First)

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