Following is the final statement made by civil society organisations at the recent FAO meeting in Kuala Lumpur:
FAO Regional Conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition in Asia-Pacific
13 September 2017
Civil Society Statement
If we see biotech as part of a small farmer’s ‘toolbox’, then we must ask what it is we are ‘fixing’:
- Ensuring resilience in the face of climate change
- Ensuring smallholders’ livelihoods are maintained & promoted
- Ensuring everyone has access to nutritious and culturally-appropriate food produced in ethical and ecologically sound ways, and their right to democratically determine their own food and agriculture systems.
The focus of our discussion here was proposed to be on “sustainable” “food systems” for “small farmers” not “high yield” to generate “more money” from “small pieces of land.” And yet the meeting has presented many solutions that are still in the lab, and products with very initial results. The current supply of food already exceeds demand but there are serious issues around good governance and equitable distribution of food. Merely securing a high yield of a few select crops does not solve the problem of hunger nor secure livelihoods for smallholders, and leads to high levels of post-harvest spoilage and food waste.
There has been a lot of discussion about what we mean by biotechnology, and yet the majority of the focus of the conference has been on GMO products. It is malicious and deceptive to refer to GM crops as “biotech crops”.
Those technologies that manipulate DNA artificially increase corporate control over seeds, diminish rich, diverse diets of local communities, promote monoculture, increase biosafety risks to health and environment, and need high investment and complicated regulatory frameworks which many countries lack. We ask those from the private sector who are calling for international acceptance of their products once approved in one country whether they are prepared to accept global liability for their products once disseminated?
We’d like to remind the group that 80% of the world’s food is produced by small farmers and farmer autonomy is critical to maintaining current and future food security and food sovereignty for everyone. We reject solutions that increase the cost of production for farmers due to the high cost of inputs from transnational corporations. We respect farmers as true in-situ innovators and not as passive consumers of the ‘biotech toolbox’.
All present should keep in mind the FAO Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples which includes Indigenous rights to:
- Free, Prior and Informed Consent;
- Participation and collaboration;
- Rights over land and other resources; and
- Gender equality.
Governments and scientists must take a holistic view of addressing the negative consequences of industrialised agriculture and avoid a ‘bandaids on cancer’ approach when it is imperative to address the causes.
Rather than being distracted by the shiny technocratic solutions of the GMO industry, FAO should continue its important work on promoting farmers’ access to native and locally adapted seeds and breeds, markets and value chains, and on promoting agroecology as the best way to feed the world and face the challenges of climate change.
Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance
La Via Campesina
Mouvement International de la Jeunesse Agricola et Rural Catholique (MIJARC)
Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP)
Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group)
Assembly of the Poor, Thailand
Thai Poor Act (TPA)
Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA)