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Tuesday, 15 October 2013 09:39

The Awarding of the World Food Prize to a Monsanto GMO Executive Is a Travesty

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monsantoseeds10 15On Thursday night, October 17, one of the three "nobel prizes" for agriculture -- The World Food Prize -- will be awarded to the executive vice president and chief technology officer at Monsanto (who specializes in GMO research), Dr. Robert T. Fraley.

Also receiving one of the coveted agricultural honors is Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton, founder and distinguished science fellow, Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc. Syngenta is a competitor to Monsanto in the global GMO and pesticide market.

According to the website of The World Food Prize:

The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing -- without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs -- the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

The Prize recognizes contributions in any field involved in the world food supply -- food and agriculture science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership and the social sciences.

The World Food Prize emphasizes the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people. By honoring those who have worked successfully toward this goal, The Prize calls attention to what has been done to improve global food security and to what can be accomplished in the future.

Even US Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated the Monsanto and Syngenta "laureates," when the prizes were announced earlier this summer:

This is the 27th year of the World Food Prize, and it will be officially awarded in Des Moines.  I join in congratulating each of the winners – Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton, and Robert Fraley – for their pioneering efforts and their tremendous contributions to biotechnology and to the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

And we obviously have a – it’s hard, as I think about it today, and I’m learning this more and more as I serve in these early months as the Secretary of State, having made the transition after 29 years in the Senate.  This disconnect between things that really matter to people on this planet and the amount of time that is consumed talking about things that don’t make that much difference.

And the challenge today to all of us in a world that is facing the threat of climate change, which is more real than unfortunately some people want to acknowledge, and what that may do to hunger and refugees and devastation and to food supplies – these are really challenging times and this is a significant moment, which is why I said a moment ago more than you know in terms of the future.  Because despite all the world’s technological advances, today nearly 870 million people, one-eighth of the world’s population, suffer from chronic hunger – chronic hunger. 

And it is obviously a trap that prevents people from realizing their God-given potential, but more than that, places people in extremis, places communities in extremis.  It can actually feed into terrorism.  It feeds into failed states.  It feeds into all of the challenges that we face in terms of building order and creating stability on this planet.  And the struggle for food is, in the end, a struggle for life itself. 

So the stakes are really high and the challenge is beyond what we face today in terms of all of the statistics and what they tell us.  The challenge is that by 2050, the world’s population is going to grow to 9 billion people.  That is going to demand at least a 60 percent increase over our current agricultural production.

That is one baffling, befuddling, and contradictory stream of political babble, but it is coming from the Secretary of State for an administration that has shilled for Monsanto and other GMO companies around the world through the State Department, according to WikiLeaks cables that have been released.

There have been some protests against the awards, as occurred this weekend in Des Moines where the "honors" will be presented:

Critics of genetically modified crops marched Saturday in front of the World Food Prize building to protest the controversial awarding of this year’s prize to laureates who have devised ways to put foreign genes into a plant’s DNA.

The March Against Monsanto was the kick-off to a week of Occupy World Food Prize events coinciding with the annual Iowa award, often called the Nobel Prize of Agriculture, founded by Dr. Normal Borlaug.

One of this year’s three laureates is the chief technology officer at Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company. Monsanto, which produces genetically modified corn, soybean and other seeds, is at the center of the controversy over genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

“We think that the World Food Prize should not be given to people who basically invented GMOs,” said Jess Mazour, the farming and environment organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, one of the rally’s coordinators.

Of course, there's more than just the likely health hazards of GMOs.  There is the profiteering, the indenturing of small rural farmers to pay increased prices for patented seeds, the US governmental impunity for Mosanto GMOs in many cases (Monsanto Protection Act), the intimidation of farmers, the financial suits against farmers in the US who don't even grow the seeds but accidentally find them blown onto their land.  And then there's the pesticides such as Roundup that end up forcing mother nature to create even more toxic resistant weeds and insects.

The protests of the awards even went worldwide, as reflected by reaction to opponents of GMOs and hyper-pesticides in the Philippines:

“In 2008, Monsanto made a $5 million pledge to the World Food Prize Foundation,” Rahmat Ajiguna, APC (Asian Peasant Coalition) deputy secretary general, said.

Rahmat added that Syngenta and Monsanto belongs to the six multinational gene giants that control the current priorities and future direction of agriculture research worldwide, controlling 59.8 percent of commercial seeds and 76.1 percent of agrochemicals. Rahmat is also the secretary general of the Alliance of Agrarian Reform Movement (Agra) based in Indonesia.

“These corporations are pushing the use of highly hazardous pesticides that cause human health and environmental devastation. These agrochemical TNCs are also guilty of violating the right to life, health, a safe working environment as well as the rights of indigenous peoples, women and children. They are destroying farmers’ and communities’ right to save seeds and biodiversity,” Rafael Mariano, chairman of Kilusang magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said. The KMP is a member-organization of the coalition.

Meanwhile, as recently posted on Truthout, Indian farmers are committing suicide by the thousands as a result of losing access to inexpensive cotton seeds due to Monsanto's heavy-handed GMO profiteering and enforcement strategies. That's a macabre manner in which to reduce the number of persons needing food on the planet.

(Photo: Light Brigading)