The populations of the poorest countries in the world are receiving transgenic food through food aid programs. They belong to groups such as children, pregnant or lactating women, in some cases LVH + patients who live in stressful situations due to war or having survived natural disasters.
Food aid in Latin America and GMOs
As long as there is production of transgenic food in the world, there will be an open market for these products through food aid programs from the United States to the poorest countries in the world, and while consumers from financially richer countries such as Europeans, from the East from Asia and in some way from the United States, focus their campaigns solely on ensuring that their food and even the balance for their animals does not come from genetically modified sources, and the problem of transgenics is not seen as a global issue, the nations of the Andean region, Central America, South Saharan Africa and occupied countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan will be forced to receive this food to incorporate it into programs aimed at the most vulnerable populations in their respective countries.
If we make a geopolitical analysis of food aid with transgenics we see that Latin America plays an important role.
At the moment, three Latin American countries produce the highest percentage of soy worldwide. These are Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Bolivia is also an important producer. This is due to the strategy of biotechnology companies to turn the Southern Cone into the “Soy Republic”, where they will be able to sell their transgenic seeds. In this geopolitical scenario, President Lula da Silva played a fundamental role: having legalized the 2003 and 2004 harvest. The fall of Brazil in the world of transgenics also meant the fall of Paraguay and Bolivia, because their markets are tied to the market Brazilian.
With this, the main sources of soy in the world are transgenic. On the one hand, this favors the US soybean producer because it will no longer have to compete with conventional Brazilian soy in a market that rejects GMOs. But a surplus of soy is created on the world market. Conflicts then arise between soybean producers in the United States who sell it as a commodity, with seed companies that have an interest in selling it as seeds to their competitors. That explains the increasing subsidies that US soy producers receive. One of the forms of subsidy is food aid.
And this is ironic, because while the WTO and other free trade agreements force us to unprotect our local production, those same institutions force us to accept subsidized food, either as donations or at prices below production prices. In the Free Trade Agreements that the United States has bilaterally signed with some countries, especially in Latin America, a clause is included whereby these countries have to accept food aid from the United States.
FAO and other United Nations agencies are also at the service of the free market and of large transnational corporations. Among these agencies, the World Food Program stands out.
Food aid is one of the preferred mechanisms for the United States' policy of channeling its development aid. This constitutes a form of subsidy for US agricultural products, because the State buys those products that have not been able to be placed on the international market. Donations are made primarily through the World Food Program.
On the other hand, the United States has systematically used food aid, it has always been used to achieve the objectives of the United States' foreign policy, since the country that receives the aid is conditioned by the donor country to follow a certain political line.
In recent years, food aid in these years has forced countries to accept structural reforms aimed at a market economy imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, with devastating impacts on the economies of Third World countries. .
For example, when the US Secretary of Agriculture announced this year the assistance that the country will provide through the "Food for Progress" program, she said that this fund was part of the Bush administration's efforts to promote growth-oriented development. market.
In 2003, the countries that received the most food from the United States were Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Andean region has become strategically important to US foreign policy. One of the causes is to gain more direct access to the rich oil fields of Venezuela. Part of this strategy is the so-called Plan Colombia. In this geopolitical game, Ecuador is a key piece. In 2000, Ecuador received an important donation of food aid from the United States, despite not being a year in which it faced a climate crisis, as happened in 1998. When the Minister of State came to deliver this "aid", she signed also the agreement by which a US military base would be established on the Ecuadorian coast. The United States' attention returned to Ecuador in 2004. For example, this was the only country that was included in the Food for Progress Program in South America in 2004, although it does not face any particularly adverse climatic conditions. .
Along with donated food, the United States imposes restrictions on the importation of similar agricultural products on countries that access aid to avoid competition with third markets. In addition, the food cargo often has to be transported by United States companies, although the rates are higher in the international market, which favors their merchant marine (Salgado, 2002).
Recipient countries, on the other hand, become dependent on such aid with fatal effects for the national economy. This was the case of wheat in the Andean region. In the sixties, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, began to receive large quantities of wheat from the United States through the "Alliance for Progress" program, created by J.F. Kennedy in 1961.
As a result, countries became dependent on US wheat food aid. Local consumers preferred to buy donated wheat, since the product that comes in as aid is sold at such a low price - because it is subsidized - that it cannot compete with local production. Local producers went bankrupt.
Ecuador went from being self-sufficient at the beginning of 1960, to an importer of 97% of the wheat consumed (Salgado, 2002). We received highly subsidized donated wheat from the United States, and market prices were so low that Ecuadorian producers could not even cover production costs if they wanted to compete with US wheat.
The food aid programs are complemented by others promoted by the Foreing Market Development Program. Among the objectives of the FMD is to support its foreign partners in improving the processing of American products, to identify new markets. This year, the first beneficiary will be the American Association of Soy Producers, which will receive a fund of more than 7 million dollars, only within this program. The need for soy is first created through food aid programs, then local processors are taught how to process it. A new market has been opened on the basis of creating dependency.
Food aid and GM foods
The United States Department of Agriculture is exporting thousands of tons of transgenic corn and soybeans to the Third World through food aid programs.
Through these programs, the risk that United States farmers have, of not selling transgenic products, due to the rejection of consumers, is eliminated. This risk has been generated by the agricultural policies of the United States by massively expanding transgenic crops, and the risk is transferred to the poorest population on the planet.
For example, while in Europe and the United States fear increases about the risks of recombinant bovine growth hormones in milk (IPS, 2002), the United States initiated the Diary Export Incentive Program (2002 - 2007), the objective of which is to expand markets and make their milk producers competitive in the world market. Between June 2003 and June 2004, USAID distributed 22,733 metric tons of milk powder, 7,032 metric tons of butter, and 1,010 metric tons of cheese as food aid. In 2003, USAID shipped a total of US $ 14.8 million in milk, 15 million in butter, and 1.5 million in cheese. The dairy recipient countries of Latin America and the Caribbean were Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vicent and Granadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
In Latin America, the Free Trade Agreements with the United States are becoming very important. The trend in these treaties is that the signatory countries will have to abide by the US policy on international trade in transgenics, both seeds and food and other products derived from genetically modified organisms. Food aid is no exception. In the treaties signed with CAFTA (Central American countries), they will be obliged to accept food in the form of food aid. It is possible that there are similar clauses in the treaties that you are currently negotiating with 3 Andean countries.
The World Food Program produced in February this year operational guides for foods derived from modern biotechnology.
In their introduction, the guidelines acknowledge that WFP makes its food donations in accordance with international standards and regulations. Additionally, WFP donates only those foods that have been approved by both the country of origin and the donor country as safe for human consumption.
The guidelines add that both the FAO, the WHO and the WFP do not have any scientific proof that transgenic foods produce negative impacts on human health, and for the same reason, they will continue to accept donations of transgenic foods. But if the donor country does not want the money it has given to be used to buy GM foods, WFP will comply with this requirement.
The WFP says that countries receiving food donations have the right to regulate imports and the transboundary movement of GMOs, but somehow limits the food that could be regulated to unprocessed grains, such as corn or soybeans; and adds that ground corn or soybeans are not considered as living modified organisms, and therefore are not covered by the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The same would apply to milk. It also points out that the majority of countries that are recipients of food aid are in the early stages of implementing the aforementioned Protocol. Is this a suggestion that therefore they are not in a position to regulate their imports?
The WFP must be informed when the regulation change occurs, so that it can discuss with the host country the possible impacts on food delivery, generated by the change in its policies. This could act as a pressure mechanism to dissuade countries from making a decision to limit the import of GMOs.
It ensures that all donations are made in full compliance with the country's regulations, although this has not been its practice in some countries such as Ecuador, where the WFP official pressed for the country to accept transgenic foods, ignoring an article of the Constitution that puts a legal lock on the importation of GMOs, even if it is donated food.
To comply with the requirements of the Cartagena Protocol, WFP must include in the near future the language of "may have" living modified organisms in the cargo of its transgenic donations. Here it should be noted that the main supplier of transgenic food, through the WFP is the United States, a country that is proposing to the countries with which it is entering into bilateral free trade agreements, an interpretation of this clause of the Protocol, in the sense that loads that are less than 5% transgenic will not be required to include this label.
The most vulnerable populations in the world's poorest countries are receiving genetically modified foods through food aid programs.
They belong to groups such as children, pregnant or lactating women, in some cases LVH + patients, with alarming levels of malnutrition and a very delicate immune system, who live in situations of stress due to war or having survived natural disasters.
Food aid in many cases is necessary, but it must be based on solidarity, to support those who face extreme situations; therefore this must be done within a framework of equality and respect.
Food aid cannot constitute a mechanism to place agricultural surpluses and much worse still to place products that others do not want. Otherwise, we will be witnessing another case of environmental racism.
The only way to prevent the most vulnerable populations in the world's poorest countries from remaining an open market for the undesirable products of the biotech industry is for transgenic crops to disappear from the face of the earth. That is where we must focus our efforts.