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USAID and GM Food Aid - October 2002

6. Why does USAID buy GM commodities for Africa?
USAID links with GM corporations

USAID does not act like a conventional foreign development agency. Instead it is at the forefront of a US marketing campaign designed to introduce GM food into the developing world. USAID is a vehicle for the GM industry. Research reveals that:
  1. USAID has launched various GM programmes designed to persuade developing countries to accept GM technology. These include a USAID funded agency that has pushed African states to pass Intellectual Property legislation, clearing the way for US GM corporations to develop markets in Africa.

  2. GM companies such as Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto fund numerous USAID programmes, including operations in Southern Africa.

  3. GM corporations including Cargill sponsor the United Nations World Food Programme.

  4. USAID is paying for US GM corporations to run research programs in Africa with local research institutes.

  5. A USAID advisor responsible for developing the USAID policy on GM used to work for Monsanto.

  1. USAID GM programmes
    In Johannesburg, the US delegation announced the launch of a 10 year $100 million programme for the developing world 40 the Collaborative Agriculture Biotechnology Initiative (CABIO). The US said that CABIO, "will help developing countries access and manage the tools of modern biotechnology."

    CABIO will carry on the work of the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP), which was set up and funded by USAID. Part of its remit was to lobby for stricter intellectual property rights legislation and plant variety protection in developing countries. 41 USAID effectively admits it acts as a marketing arm of the US GM industry when it states on its website: "The training and awareness raised by ABSP… has given the private sector a better assurance allowing some companies such DNA Plant Technology, ICI Seeds (Syngenta), Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto to agree on technology transfer projects…An interesting feature of the programme, uncommon in donor funded projects, is the fact that ABSP has supported the filing of two patents during the development of research agreements." 41

  2. GM support for USAID programmes
    In 2001 companies with significant interests in the development of biotechnology financially supported USAID. 42 These companies included Monsanto and Cargill. In addition, the Monsanto Fund has run a number of agricultural schemes in Africa. The Fund "is dedicated to providing more farmers around the world access to the improved techniques, knowledge and partnerships that will allow them to be more productive and profitable." 43

  3. WFP corporate sponsors
    The World Food Programme's Corporate Sponsors include: 44
    • Archer Daniels Midland - the pro-GM grain company will provide $3 million over three years for WFP humanitarian projects
    • Alcon/Cargill Corporation - will provide $50,000 for school feeding projects in Honduras

  4. USAID and GM research programmes
    Over the last 10 years, USAID has paid for US GM corporations to run research programmes in the developing world with local research institutes. 45
    These include:
    • Monsanto and Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute - to develop virus resistant sweet potatoes.
    • Garst Seeds and Central Institute for Food Crops Indonesia - to develop tropical Bt maize. Garst Seeds (Advanta) are part owned by Astra-Zeneca.
    • Pioneer Hi Bred and Egyptian Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute - application of Bt technology to development of insect-resistant maize. Pioneer is the world's largest seed company and market leader in GM seeds.
    USAID makes it clear that though "philanthropy and good public relations" is a factor in developing these partnerships, they have funded projects "that hold potential commercial value to the company." 45 USAID admits that the US GM companies it funds in Africa may "have longer-term interests in developing a market relationship with a particular country for other biotech products." 45

    USAID also funds the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), an organisation that promotes the growth of GM in the developing world. 46 The ISAAA actively supports various GM projects in Africa and Asia looking to develop GM bananas, sweet potatoes, maize and papaya. Through the ISAAA, USAID funds African scientists to go to the USA to be trained in biotechnology. ISAAA is not funded solely by USAID - other donors include Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Syngenta, AgrEvo, Cargill, Dow AgroSciences, KWS and the US Department of Agriculture.

  5. USAID funded staff
    Professor CS Prakash - High-profile GM enthusiast Professor CS Prakash is an official USAID advisor. 47 Professor Prakash is the Director of the Centre for Plant Biotechnology at Tuskegee University, Alabama. The University has been funded to the tune of $5.5 million by USAID. In addition, the US Department of Agriculture "recently signed an agreement with Sub Saharan African countries and Tuskegee University to facilitate technology transfer related to agricultural biotechnology." 48

    Professor Prakash also runs a pro-GM website, AgBioWorld. The AgBioWorld website is said to be hosted by the PR agency Bivings Woodell, whose clients include Monsanto. 49 AgBioWorld was heavily involved in the criticism of two scientists who published an article in the journal Nature on the genetic contamination of conventional maize varieties in Mexico. The article by Dr. David Quist and Ignacio Chapela came under immediate attack in the form of e-mails published on the AgBioWorld website. Correspondents "Mary Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek" claimed that anti-GM conspirators wrote the research, although neither could be identified as bona fide contributors. AgBioWorld even launched a petition highlighting the research's alleged flaws.

    Based on criticisms of the article the editorial board of Nature "concluded that the evidence available is not sufficient to justify the publication of the original paper" 50 and for the first time in its history retracted an article. However, Chapela maintains that none of the criticism put forward challenged the main finding that varieties of maize growing in Mexico contain genetically engineered material. Subsequent research has suggested that the internet servers used by "Mary Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek" belong to Bivings Woodell. GM journal Progressive Farmer named Professor Prakash Man of the Year 2002. 51

    Joel Cohen - For six years USAID's senior adviser on the GM issue. Prior to this he was a research station manager and biotechnology liaison specialist with Dekalb-Pfizer Genetics. Dekalb are owned by Monsanto. 52

  1. World Food Summit Endorses Biotechnology. Avery DT. Centre for Global Food Issues. August 2002
  2. Guidelines FY 2002 Program for Biosafety Systems. Office of Agriculture and Food Security, Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade. USAID, March 2002
  6. Leveraging Partnerships Between the Public and Private Sector - Experience of USAID's Agricultural Biotechnology Program. Lewis J. USAID, October 1999
  9. Assistant Secretary of State Sandalow on biotechnology to fight hunger, poverty. US Department of State, 13th July 2000
  11. Journal editors disavow article on biotech corn. Kaufman M. Washington Post, 4th April 2002
  12. Progressive Farmer Names CS Prakash 'Man of Year'. US Newswire, 4th February 2002
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