Slowfood slams FAO 'endorsement of GMOs'

The symposium at the FAO. Photo credit: ©FAO,Giuseppe Carotenuto.

 ROME -- Slow Food and many other civil society organisations protested Monday over an international symposium being held this week at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation entitled “The Role of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition"   

 The symposium program from Monday to Wednesday focuses on the application of science and technology, specifically agricultural biotechnologies. In particular, the FAO symposium proposes showcasing the benefits of biotechnologies, GMOs and other artificial genetic constructs in developing sustainable food systems and improving nutrition in the context of climate change. Culturally based technologies are entirely disregarded.

 Slow Food signed a joint statement together with Via Campesina, GRAIN and many other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) expressing its concern about the symposium program. Slow Food strongly affirms that GMOs do not feed the world. They are held by the “Big Six” transnational corporations and mostly planted in a handful of countries on industrial plantations for the purposes of agro-fuels and animal feed. They increase pesticide use and throw farmers off the land.   

 Moreover, the industrial food system that it promotes is one of the main drivers of climate change.

 Last year, the FAO hosted an international symposium on agro-ecology and held three regional meetings in conjunction with governments and CSOs to discuss how to move the agro-ecology agenda forward. Those activities were much closer to the way FAO should act: as a center for knowledge exchange. Yet FAO has not met expectations. It has not organized a symposium on agro-ecology, preferring to leave the room to biotechnology industry and to the same corporations that already control 75 percent of global private-sector research and development in agriculture.

 According to Slow Food, FAO "seems to be limiting itself to corporate biotechnology, denying the existence of farmers’ technologies, skills and knowledge." Slow Food believes that protecting local communities and family food production is vital for preserving biodiversity, eradicating hunger, improving health, ensuring food security, maintaining rural (and urban) livelihoods, managing natural resources, and protecting the environment. Small-scale farmers are those who feed the world. We need to learn from them and protect their traditional knowledge, not corporate biotechnologies.

This is why Slow Food and the other signatories of the letter call for a change of FAO priorities, asking the organization to pursue agro-ecology and food sovereignty as the path to feed the world, rather than allowing corporations to push their biotechnology agendas.