A report from watchdog group Food & Water Watch released yesterday accuses the US State Department of partnering with Monsanto and other GMO seed companies to push biotech crops abroad, forcing farmers to buy genetically modified seeds and agrichemicals.
Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda says the State Department lobbied foreign governments to adopt pro-biotech agricultural policies and deployed rigorous public relations campaigns to boost the industry’s image. Aside from Monsanto, the seed industry is dominated by a handful of players including Dow Chemical, Bayer, DuPont and Syngenta.
Food & Water Watch examined 900 diplomatic cables sent between 2005 and 2009, originally exposed by Wikileaks in 2010. The cables detail US embassies requesting the State Department’s help in running interference for Monsanto with different countries’ government policies, covering intellectual property and patent law and adopting pro-biotech laws.
A majority of farmers in the developing world don’t think using biotech crops is the way to achieve food security or agricultural sustainability, says Ben Burkett with the National Family Farm Coalition. Instead, forcing them to buy the expensive GMO seeds and agrichemicals pushes them into debt, he says.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, accuses the State Deparment of “selling seeds instead of democracy” and says the federal agency secretly negotiated trade deals with Europe and Pacific Rim countries that forced them to accept biotech imports and prevent labeling GMO foods.
The report calls on the State Department to stop promoting pro-biotech policies in other countries, eliminate the millions of dollars in funding for these efforts and stop demanding that foreign governments accept unwanted imports of these crops and foods.
Proponents of genetically modified foods last year poured $45 million into defeating California’s Proposition 37, which would have required companies to label genetically engineered foods.
The US Department of Agriculture delayed approving new GMO crops from Monsanto and Dow Chemicals last week, citing concerns that called for a more thorough environmental review of the crops.
Photo Credit: Monsanto