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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The World Bank against Bio- security

The World Bank Against Bio-security
Silvia Ribeiro
(Translation from the Spanish by Dan Brown, a CSN translator)

ALAI AMLATINA 19-07-06, México DF ­ the fundamental role of the World Bank is not to act as a financial institution, but rather to influence the politics of the (client) countries, smoothing the road so that private corporations can later act with legal guarantees inside these nations.  They do this with a mixture of theoretically ³soft² loans (with all types of conditions and that, when attempted to be repaid, cost the blood of the receiving countries), a percentage of common loans and another percentage of ³Forgivable Loans².

These latter loans that appear as donations are, in reality, the most expensive because it is these that prepare the terrain for the advance of the trans-nationals in areas where they otherwise would not have been able to enter or which would have resulted much more costly to them in terms of reputation and economic costs.  Typical examples of this last form of activity are the projects financed through the Global Environment Fund (GEF).  This organization is administered by the (World) Bank, together with the UNEP (Un Environment Program) and the UNDP (UN Development Fund).

Found within the area of Biodiversity of the GEF, for example, are the Mesoamerican Biologics Corridor and other examples of the legitimization of the industrial use of biodiversity, the justification of bio-piracy and the displacement, in the name of ³conservation², of peasants and indigenous people from their ancestral territories, along with the alienation of community forest management systems, introducing them to the ³environmental services market².  In this context, the promotion and justification of transgenetic organisms operated through the badly named bio-security projects cannot be far behind.

The GEF has wrought a deluge of criticisms around this topic in recent years, along with the UNEP-GEF projects on bio-security that have been strongly criticized by civilian organizations en practically all countries where they have operated in Latin America, Africa and Asia.   The common denominator has been that these projects, under the cover of training projects and multi-sector dialogue, in reality, established the bases for bio-security standards that favor the global interests of the few transnational genetic engineering companies.

In a new exploit, the GEF is now considering the approval of multi-million dollar projects in Africa and Latin America, whose principal objectives are to legitimize the introduction of transgenetic crops in areas where the native counterparts of these foods originated, and or areas where these crops are of particular importance for the peasant economies of ³megadiverse² countries .

In the case of Latin America the goal is to ¨train¨ the governments of Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica to manage, on the one hand, the transgenetic contamination resulting from the introduction of genetically modified corn, potatoes, yucca, rice and cotton, and on the other hand, to manage critical public opinion regarding transgenetics, through cost-benefit analysis and the standardization of so a called scientific basis ³adequate² to manage the contamination.  In no part of the project is it considered that the best ³bio security² to prevent contamination is to not permit transgenetic crops, as demanded by millions of peasants, indigenous peoples, environmentalists, consumers and responsible scientists of these countries.  On the contrary, the basic supposition is that the transgenetics are already there or will inevitably be introduced.  This is accompanied by the brutal aggravating factor that, in this case, four of these mentioned crops, have their place of origin in the involved countries, where they have been the product of the adaptive work of peasants throughout thousands of years.  Rice, although originally from Asia, has also been adopted by peasants from the region for whom, together with the other crops in question, it constitutes the base of their economies, cultures and ways of life.

The Project will be coordinated by the International Tropical Agriculture Center (one of 18 public international centers of the CGIAR  system, that according to its mission, dedicates itself to support peasant agriculture instead of sabotaging it), along with governmental, university and private institutions in the (subject) countries.  Among the advisors, front organizations for the transnational corporations that are the principal beneficiaries of the project can be found.  

In the case of Mexico, the counterparts (of the above agencies) are the National Commission for Biodiversity, Sagarpa  and Cibiogem .  Maria Francisca Acevedo and Amanda Galvez are the contacts.  The project was sent for ³expert² revision to Ariel Alvarez Morales of Cinvestav .  In the comments that he directs to the GEF, he says, for example:  ³I don¹t agree that crops modified by modern biotechnology are the most important factor in the medium term.  They are so in the present!  The challenges in the short and medium term are the transgenetic plants that can produce pharmaceuticals, as well as transgenetic fish and arthropods.  Because of this, I see the necessity to include these areas in the program budgetŠ.²

Or, in other words: it is not enough for Mexico to become the experiment of the trans-nationals with the resultant contamination of native corn, but rather that it should also be a pioneer in other devastating forms of contamination.

The Project presented to the GEF does not include, at least until now, the suggestions made by Alvarez.  Nevertheless, without doubt, it reveals his real intentions:  to save time for the (trans-national) companies by preparing arguments to justify new generations of transgenetics.

Civil society is on alert and has begun a broad campaign on both continents to stop these projects, with the first denunciation elaborated by the African Center for Bio-security, Grain , the ETC Group and The Network for an America Free of transgenetics.  More information can be obtained through these groups.

- Silvia Ribeiro is an investigator for the ETC Group .

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