[For further information on the Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and
Agriculture see Forum website.
Note, participants are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf, unless they state otherwise.]
Sent: 03 February 2005 10:10
Subject: 73: Public participation - Fiji
I am Ruci Dakunimata, Senior Consumer Officer-Research at the Consumer Council of Fiji.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank FAO for introducing this conference which allows those accessible to such technology to participate. Fiji lies at the heart of the South Pacific between longitudes 175 and 178 west and latitudes 15 and 22 south. This is roughly directly north of New Zealand and north east of Sydney, Australia. The country is made up of approximately 330 islands which are distributed over 1.3 million square kilometres of ocean. Only 16% of the country’s land mass is suitable for intensive agriculture and they are found mainly along coastal plains, river deltas and valleys. 54% of the country's population still lives in rural areas.
The subject of GMO is new to Fiji and the local consumers. The Consumer Council of Fiji, being the only consumer organisation in the country, had been raising the issue in 2000 and 2003 in its Consumer Rights Day celebrations and activities. We still feel that there is yet more awareness programs needed on GMOs. Given the country's scattered islands, it is difficult to reach out to these outer and remote islands in terms of visits. However, our radio programs had been used to relay the message across to them.
The Government's Ministry of Agriculture had set up a division on GMO which would look into the GMO issue. However, involving the public would be more meaningful as we try to follow a more participatory approach. That is, the rural people to participate and be part of the decision making as far as GMO is concerned. They are the vulnerable groups and it is very important for them to be informed about GMO. Most of the goods flooding the Fiji market now are imported goods and we find labelling to be a problem in most of these goods. The consumers are accessible to these goods. So who knows the make up of these goods and ingredients used? This is where the involvement of all stakeholders at all levels is crucial, and more importantly, involving the public.
Senior Consumer Officer-Research
Consumer Council of Fiji
Private Mail Bag
e-mail: consumer (at) connect.com.fj
Sent: 03 February 2005 10:21
Subject: 74: Information, transparency and on an ethical basis
My name is Sezifredo Paz and I represent Brazilian Consumers Institute Defense (IDEC).
IDEC is a consumers association and has noted, in Brazil, all the consumers concerns described by David Cuming (Message 71). We support the Consumers International's position and would like to add others aspects about the issue.
In Brazil, the biotech industries and some governmental actors make an information campaign on the rural people (producers), usually using misleading information about GMOs advantages. Our organization has noted that rural people are not aware of the dimensions and the consequences of the dependence if they adopt GMOs (royalties, contracts), not even enviromental risks, health risks and others aspects. Therefore, for us, the development of public participation regarding GMOs in the developing world must be developed under correct information, transparency and on an ethical basis.
In respect to the health safety of GMOs, the decision-making process regarding GMOs is not reliable for the public opinion. For example, IDEC has noted little governmental interest in the aplication of the Codex Alimentarius FAO/WHO principles and guidelines for risk analysis and for safety assesment of foods derived of GMOs. [As noted in Section 4 of the background document to this conference, at its 26th session, held in Rome in summer 2003, the Joint FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission adopted guidelines that lay out broad general principles intended to make the analysis and management of risks related to GM foods uniform across Codex's members (169 member countries). Considering risk communication, the "Principles for the risk analysis of foods derived from modern biotechnology" state: "Effective risk communication is essential at all phases of risk assessment and risk management. It is an interactive process involving all interested parties, including government, industry, academia, media and consumers. Risk communication should include transparent safety assessment and risk management decision-making processes. These processes should be fully documented at all stages and open to public scrutiny, whilst respecting legitimate concerns to safeguard the confidentiality of commercial and industrial information. In particular, reports prepared on the safety assessments and other aspects of the decision-making process should be made available to all interested parties. Effective risk communication should include responsive consultation processes. Consultation processes should be interactive. The views of all interested parties should be sought and relevant food safety and nutritional issues that are raised during consultation should be addressed during the risk analysis process" (http://www.fao.org/es/ESN/food/risk_biotech_taskforce_en.stm) ...Moderator]Thanks to FAO for sponsoring this debate.
Instituto de Defesa do Consumidor (IDEC)
Rua Dr. Costa Júnior, 356
Sao Paulo - SP
Tel +55 11 38624266
sezi (at) idec.org.br
Sent: 03 February 2005 10:29
Subject: 75: Re: Capacity building using a science based approach
Anne Bridges (Message 72) states "Today there is no scientific "peer reviewed" publication that shows that the GM traits in cultivation today cause any new elevated health risks (accepting as we have done for centuries, that all foods and drugs carry some potential element of risk). There are however, many reports by scientific national academies that show there are no increased risks."
Anne could you please give reference to those many reports - I've been searching and asking for this very information from the biotech companies themselves to no avail. In particular any peer reviewed data in relation to canola, canola meal and canola oil.
My name is Helen Chambers. I farm in central Victoria, Australia with my husband and his parents. We have 3 small children. I have followed this international debate on GMOs for the past 2 years and must say I'm disappointed with the way our governments and farming organisations in this country have followed the lead of the biotech companies without and/or little regard of farmer or consumer choice.
My questioning of the science and the ensuing peer reviewed research and safety testing puts me in the 'anti-GM brigade' and very often shunned particularly in forums run by governments and our farming organisation using those very words of Anne - talk about the absence of evidence. It is my opinion that if the biotech companies used their Public Relations dollars more constructively by actually carrying out the peer-reviewed long-term health safety testing in the first place and allowed full transparency - consumers would not be so mistrustful of the GM product. We farmers need to remember that the consumer is king and we need to grow what they demand!
As for improved nutrition in these GMO foodstuffs - where's the scientific evidence of this? True nutrition required for human survival and sustainability comes from the soil - a healthy, well balanced and mineralised soil. Humans are part of that biological cycle and perfecting and understanding that cycle, I believe, is where the future sciences should be directing their attention not playing around with transgenics willy-nilly and exposing humankind to the end results without the long-term impacts being researched and peer reviewed.I too, have been enjoying the dialogue from the e-conference.
Farmer, Mother and Consumer
email: lyndale.park (at) bigpond.com
[As this conference is devoted to the subject of public participation in decision-making regarding GMOs for food and agriculture in developing countries, considering in particular how rural people can be effectively involved in the decision-making process, this thread on the health risks and/or improved nutrition of GM products is now cut...Moderator].
Sent: 03 February 2005 10:42
Subject: 76: Pertinent points on this subject
This is from Jeffrey A. McNeely, Chief Scientist at IUCN (The World Conservation Union) headquarters in Switzerland.
I have greatly enjoyed this email conference, and thanks to FAO for convening it. I would like to add my views on the subject of public participation in decision-making regarding GMOs for food and agriculture in developing countries. The following points seem especially pertinent:
1. The developing countries often seem to be under very considerable pressure from those with an interest either for or against GMOs, often making it difficult for them to determine which policy is most beneficial to their country. The pro or con arguments often are based on idealogical issues rather than scientific ones.
2. It is well recognised that the problem of hunger in developing countries is especially one of food distribution rather than simply food production. Technologies that enhance production without dealing with the distribution issue are unlikely to have the desired impact on hunger. The 800 million or so people going hungry are not given many opportunities to influence decision-making on agricultural policy, and it seems unlikely that they would be involved in decisions about GMOs. This is not to argue against such consultation, but simply to make the observation that the rural poor most in need of better agricultural support are usually the last to be consulted.
3. One argument that has received insufficient exposure in this conference is indirect consultation in terms of consumer behaviour. That is, farmers who find that a new crop or technology is an improvement over their present crop or technology are likely to adopt it. Farmers are practical, and their decisions about such matters are often directly relevant to their survival, or at least prosperity. If they see the prospect of a better livelihood, then they are likely to change their behaviour. And of course, informed decisions are better than decisions based on only partial information. The rapid acceptance by farmers of some persistent organic pesticides provide an excellent example of where perception was based on insufficient information, much less consultation.
4. The key factor is to provide objective information from a credible source (or multiple sources), in languages that are relevant to the local people. With the improvement in communications technology, this should not be an overwhelming task for a government agricultural agency. It needs to be recognised, however, that government sources will also be augmented by the private sector agro industries promoting GMOs and non-governmental organisations who are arguing against GMOs. A government agency is probably the most appropriate intermediary and likely to be trusted by the local people, when that agency has proven its credibility over time.
5. If quality information is provided, then involving the public in decision-making is unlikely to involve additional costs. They will make their own decisions on the basis of the information they have received.
Jeffrey A. McNeely
IUCN-The World Conservation Union
rue Mauverney 28, 1196 Gland
E-mail: jam (at) iucn.org
Tel.: +41 22 999 0284
Fax: +41 22 999 0025
Sent: 03 February 2005 15:20
Subject: 77: Re: Pertinent points on this subject
This is Javier M. Claparols, Director of the the Ecological Society of the Philippines, a member of the IUCN-World Conservation Union. My friend Jeff McNeely (Message 76) should have mentioned that the IUCN in it's last World Conservation Congress held in Bangkok on November 2004 passed a Policy Resolution on a Moratorium on Further Release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).I would like to add the following concerning the 5 points in his message:
Javier M. Claparols
Ecological Society of the Philippines
53 Tamarind Road, Forbes Park
Makati City 1200
Tel: 63 2 6339626
Fax: 63 2 6317357
Email: jmc1 (at) mozcom.com