Barely a month ago, hundreds of initiatives were organized around the world to demonstrate against Monsanto, the corporation that became a household name through their domination of GM seeds and pesticides. But the thousands of people who took to the streets to say “no” to the aggressive policies of the St. Louis-based multinational were not enough to prevent yet another scandal.
On June 19, the biotechnologist Robert Fraley, who has worked for Monsanto for years and was responsible for the development of the first GM soya seed in 1996, was awarded the World Food Prize. Started by Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, the prize is given to individuals “who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world.” Slow Food firmly believes that GMOs do not respond satisfactorily to any of these criteria.
There is clearly a conflict of interest inherent in the assignation of the prize, which is funded by, among others, Monsanto. Furthermore, we want to highlight the fact that many farming communities and consumers, and in general increasing numbers of people around the world, do not see Monsanto and other multinationals as able to provide solutions to problems like food security. As Eric Holt Gimenez summed up in his article for the Huffington Post last week: “The trouble is, GMO seeds produce feed and fuel, not food. Over the last 20 years they’ve yet to feed any of the planet’s poor or hungry.”
Slow Food looks to the thousands of examples of communities promoting local seeds as the basis of sustainable food production. In Egypt, for example, the Nawaya organization runs the “Bozoor Balady” (seeds of the country) campaign in collaboration with Nabta, 350.org and Greenpeace to “raise awareness among consumers about an issue that is still not common knowledge.” Sara El Sayed, a young biologist and a Slow Food International Councilor explained: “To do this, we are organizing many initiatives that aim to inform everyone about the bad quality of the seeds – not just GMOs – currently available on the market. What we are doing now, we are doing to attract attention in the media, on television, in magazines and newspapers, which have shown themselves willing to let us talk about seeds, their importance to the local diet, why the taste of foods has changed in recent years.”
For Sara and the young activists involved in this difficult battle, the challenges are many. “First we have to collect more information: about the commonly sold seeds, about the actual presence of GMOs in our country, about their harmfulness to human health… Then, our aim is to involve more and more people, starting with the women and men who have been working on these issues for years and who can contribute their experience. Our actions are symbolic. For example, we made ‘seed bombs,’ balls made of local, organic seeds, which we threw into public parks and gardens which then grow into new plants.”
In Uruguay, Laura Rosano, a chef and leader of the Slow Food Canario Convivium, is strongly committed to the fight against GMOs, in a country where they have come to be an important part of the economy. “In Uruguay, 98% of the soy grown is transgenic. GM corn, meanwhile, represents 90% of the national corn harvest, which means an increasing loss of traditional seeds and biodiversity. In all this, the government is not implementing awareness-raising policies, because it is interested in promoting the development of its flagship product, GM soy. As for us, we’re working to develop a proposal for a law on GM product labeling, which we’ll send to parliament, and to organize a third seminar on this subject, with the plan of raising awareness among young people, consumers and civil society.”
The voices of Sara and Laura are not isolated. Along with them, many farmers, consumers, journalists and researchers around the world are fighting against the iniquity of GMOs, and trying to make people understand that they are not the solution to world hunger. It is to them that we would like to award our World Food Prize. We are on their side.
Read more about Slow Food’s campaign to Say No to GMOs!