[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: 17 January 2005 17:46
Subject: 1: Questions 6a - 6e in the Background Document
[Welcome everybody to this FAO e-mail conference on public participation in decision-making on GMOs in developing countries !!! The four weeks available for this conference will go very fast, so we encourage you to participate actively right from the beginning to get the maximum benefit from it. Participants are also reminded to briefly introduce themselves in their first message to the conference...Moderator]
I am Dr (Mrs) P S Janaki Krishna, working as ‘consultant’ in ‘Andhra Pradesh Netherlands Biotechnology Programme’ being implemented by the Biotechnology Unit of Institute of Public Enterprise, Hyderabad, India.
First of all, I would like to thank FAO for organizing this ‘e-conference’ on such an important topic - ‘Public participation in decision-making regarding GMOs in developing countries: How to effectively involve rural people”. I also thank the organizers for providing such an exhaustive ‘Background Document’, which is very useful in proceeding towards the conference. I feel the sub-theme of the conference –‘how to effectively involve rural people’- is more critical and important. I always enjoy participating in these conferences, which are informative and well moderated. My main objective in participating in the present conference is to share some of my thoughts with regard to public participation as we in our Programme follow an ‘interactive bottom up’ approach which is based on the principles of participation for executing the projects in biotechnology and to also gain some knowledge through this conference on how to reach the unreached and involve them in the events of decision making.
In many parts of rural India, as in many other countries, opportunities for people to learn about the world outside their village, or even to keep in touch with current events going in their own region, are often limited. They are not part of the formal communication networks that keep them up to date and in poor communities, newspapers, radios and television are scarce. In the same way, technologies and innovations like computers, television, video and cinema, which make city/town life seem attractive, are out of reach to the majority of people living in the remote countryside. In this regard, like ‘remote sensing’ ‘remote sourcing’ should also be given equal priority.
Against this backdrop, and on behalf of some of these unheard voices, I would like to participate in this conference. How to make these voices heard in decision-making on the introduction of new varieties of crops like GMOs (whose inherent make up is changed) into their farms in which they live, work, walk, talk, eat and sleep is the main challenge. I hope by the end of the conference we will certainly get some clues/leads on how to involve them in decision making with regard to implementation of these programmes.
Coming to the 15 questions that are provided as part of the ‘Background document’ to be addressed in this conference, I would like to comment on a set of five questions each time in order to be crisp and focused.
6.a) "What priority should governments give to involving the rural people in decision making regarding GMOs in developing countries?"
Governments should give top priority to involving rural people in decision-making. (This has been well acknowledged in the Rio Declaration – 1992). Once this decision is put into practice as a must the ‘ways and means’ by the respective nations and states would be worked out.
6.b) "In which situations is it most important to include the rural people in decision-making regarding the GMOs in developing countries?"
If the GMO that is to be introduced by any means affects the livelihoods of rural people, as a follower of participatory approaches in technology development, I feel it is advisable to involve rural people right from priority setting including selection of crops/varieties/traits/products for genetic modification. If not, they should at least be consulted during the decision making process at developing regulatory frameworks and approving for commercialization.
6.c) "How can public participation opportunities be extended to groups in rural communities who are more difficult to reach or who have less access to communication channels (e.g. women, subsistence farmers)?"
It is true that these groups are difficult to reach. However, door to door sample surveys, meetings with these groups, exposure visits by these groups to research farms, labs where these products are being developed, involving them as one of the stakeholders in public awareness camps on “Biotechnology and emerging issues”, public debates etc. would help and their opinions may be documented and shared during the decision making process. We in Andhra Pradesh Netherlands Biotechnology Programme involve rural people throughout project conceptualization and implementation stage and organize public awareness camps and public debates on these issues on a regular basis. Right and transparent communication with regard to GMOs should be given due importance in this exercise.
6.d) "Should specific considerations be given to involving indigenous communities in decision-making regarding GMOs? If so how can this be best achieved?"
It again depends on the GMO we are introducing. If it any way affects these communities they should be consulted during the decision making process. Also, one of the representatives from these communities should be nominated to the policy making body to take care of these issues.
6.e) "What is best medium (e.g. newspaper, radio, internet etc.) for rural people in developing countries to access quality information about GMOs, that will allow them to participate effectively in the decision making process?"
For rural people, radio and newspaper are best media to be reached. Television also to some extent can be used as one of the communication medium. I recently heard of ‘community radios’, which are serving as best medium to reach these people. Governments may give a serious thought for installation of the same in the villages. Besides we can think of involving them in answering questionnaires with regard to policy implementation, distribute pamphlets with regard to existing policies, brochures etc. show them the video films, skits depicting the ‘pros and cons’ of GMOs. However, any form of communication should be in the local language.
These are some of my opinions, which I would to like to state at this juncture. Thank You!
P S Janaki Krishna,
Biotechnology Unit, Institute of Public Enterprise,
Hyderabad - 500 007,
Email: jankrisp (at) yahoo.com
Phone: 040 - 27097018/27098148
Sent: 17 January 2005 17:47
Subject: 2: Rural people in developing world - Different profiles
I am Vagner Augusto Benedito, a Brazilian researcher from CENA/USP (the Center for Nuclear Energy in Agriculture/University of Sao Paulo), with a Ph.D. in plant sciences from Wageningen University (the Netherlands).
This conference is a great opportunity to debate how to include rural people from developing world in the current debate on issues where they are directly involved, trying to make them not only receptors of novel technologies or ready answers to their problems, but instead, integrating them in the decision-making process.
I would like to start the discussion reminding that rural people in developing world can have different profiles regarding education, economic situation, and power to interfere in political decisions.
Here in Brazil, we may situate rural people in several categories, including:
1) big farmers (producing mostly export and internal commodities), which are technified businessmen, have access to financing and can be organized to interfere actively in politics even at national levels;
2) big farmers who are less technified, but take advantage of large areas for production (even devastating forests for new agriculture frontiers) and can also interfere in political internal affairs;
3) medium farmers of a wide range of education and technification, whose interference power in political matters will depend on their own organization (as cooperatives or associations), but usually have their political influence in more local standards;
4) small/subsistence farmers, who are mostly lowly educated, poor, not organized people with no influence in the political scenario and their voices are only heard indirectly (when it is heard).
Of course, we have a gradation in these categories and exceptions (for example, small highly technified farmers, such as flower producers in Sao Paulo State).
One first big problem to involve rural people in the decision-making process is their capacity of organization. If they are organized at the national level (which in Brazil is largely difficult due to the country size), they can demand their needs or make their opinions listened to.
Another problem to be faced in this regard is about education. Low education is usually the rule among rural people in Brazil (and of course in the whole undeveloped world). In order to insert rural people in any decision-making process, it is necessary to think of giving them tools for their own judgement, and this is only achieved with education.
A third problem I see in this theme is leadership control. It is easier to lead a people without involving them, since it can generate long discussions and the process could run much more slowly. Real democracy is not easy to be implemented (even in the said democratic governments) and it is an exercise of achieving the most satisfying solution, which demands sometimes furious debates. Governments must give some room for listening to people's opinions, taking it seriously to try to achieve the best solution.
GMOs are a reality in many places of the world and much has been already said by political and scientific experts and so little has been listened from the farmers (excluding, of course, large-scale producers, which made a huge difference in releasing transgenic soybean in Brazil). My personal concern is about small-scale producers, which so far are rarely inquired about themes that make huge differences in their lives.
Dr. Vagner Augusto Benedito, Ph.D.
Plant Physiology and Molecular Biology
Plant Breeding Laboratory - LAMP
Center for Nuclear Energy in Agriculture
University of São Paulo
benedito (at) cena.usp.br
Sent: 17 January 2005 17:48
Subject: 3: Why involve the rural people on the issue of GMOs
This is from Michel Ferry, an agronomist interested by the problematic of the poor farmers livelihood improvement and the consequences of liberalism for the poor and the environment. I am following the debate on biotechnology and development with very much attention.
The question on how to involve the rural people on the issue of GMOs seems to me a bit strange. Before asking how, perhaps could it be interesting to ask why? Why give to this issue a special place in the issues regarding rural development? The question of how to involve the rural people on this issue is not specific. It belongs to the problematic of how to involve the rural people on any subject regarding their activities and their life. We know that it is a difficult task for many reasons. Because the rural people are difficult to reach, and if we are speaking of the poor local people, who should be the priority target of development actions it is still worse. Most of the rural people speak only their ethnic language. Most of them don´t know how to read or to write. We know that they are also not or badly represented. In these conditions, is it a priority and really serious and honest to pretend to look for the opinion of the rural people?
Everybody knows that the debate on GMOs is very complex and even educated people are not always capable of understanding it. How could we avoid that such a question would not be biased by the persons asking it? Once again, what are the objectives of the persons who say that they would like to know the rural people's opinion? Is there not some hypocrisy or hidden objective behind that research? In fact what are the questions that the persons would like to ask? I would be interested to know them? The push of the USA and their multinationals to obtain the agreement of the African countries for the introduction of GMO is strong and often indecent. National authorities have difficulty in resisting. To facilitate this agreement, is not one of the solutions to pretend that the rural people have been consulted?
Why the rural people? Are not the consumers as much or more concerned that them? Or is the idea just to inform the farmers that with the GMOs (I think that it is generally impossible to explain to them what they are) they will be able to eliminate easily the weeds or fight against pests without using pesticide. After that explanation it just remains to ask them if they agree with the GMOs. How to present them with the possibilities of risks: health, biodiversity, resistance, gene flow, patented seeds, GMO market, increasing competition of the wealthier farmers etc..? As some of these risks are complex, potential or on the medium and long term how to present them to give the farmers the information that will really allow them to make a choice?
Research Station on Date Palm and Oasis Farming Systems
Email: m.ferry (at) wanadoo.es
Sent: 17 January 2005 17:49
Subject: 4: Why should the public be involved in the decision making processes regarding GMOs?
My name is Diogenes Infante. I am a researcher in plant biotechnology at the Institute for Advanced Studies (Instituto de Estudios Avanzados, IDEA) in Caracas, Venezuela. My fields of research include micropropagation, molecular markers and transgenics in tropical crops.
Regarding the matter of this conference, I want to point out:
Are the public involved in the decision making process of new drugs?
Are the public involved in the decision process of frequencies assigned for cell phones or TV broadcast?
Are the public involved in the decision making process for the approval of new chemicals for agriculture?
So, why should the public, rural or not, be involved in the decision making processes regarding GMOs?
In all the decision making process, specialists in the field should be involved. It is the people with the right knowledge, and tools, who take the decision about the benefits and side effects of new medicaments, or old ones. Example, this week Nimelsulide has been retired from pharmacies in Venezuela, an analgesic that is used in kids for fever and pains. I used it a lot with my younger son. But it has a side effect. If as a member of the public I was consulted about this drug, my opinion would be very favorable. I did not know about the side effect: increased levels of hepatitis.
On the other hand, GMOs are the safest technology developed by the mankind; I did not know any case of something wrong with GMOs. But GMOs has been the target of pseudo-ecologist organizations that make their living creating panic about GMOs. There is a demagogical campaign again GMOs, especially in Venezuela. In order to be effective, a demagogue needs uneducated public. So the only reason I found to involve the public in the decision making process for GMOs, is that they are the target of the demagogues anti GMOs.
Consequently, instead of promoting the public participation in the decision making process of GMOs, organizations like FAO should promote decision panels conformed by experts at the highest level. So, the conference desirable is : What kind of expertise is needed in a panel of expert for approval/refusal of GMOs?
Dr. Diógenes Infante H.
Centro de Biotecnología
Instituto de Estudios Avanzados
e-mail: dinfante (at) idea.org.ve
Apdo. 17606 Parque Central
Caracas 1015-A, Venezuela
Carretera Hoyo de la Puerta
Sartenejas, Caracas 1080
Sent: 17 January 2005 17:50
Subject: 5: Farmers perspective
I am an Australian farmer that has dedicated years to researching how GM crops will impact on farmer economics and have lobbied hard to be effectively involved in the decision making process. Although I am already actively involved in agripolitics at state and national level, I have never experienced a debate that is so controversial, so reliant on misleading information and so complex.
The key question for this forum is "how rural people can be effectively involved in the decision-making process" but it needs to be acknowledged that farmers are heavily targetted by those with vested interests and the unbiased information farmers and policy makers need in order to make decisions is not freely available.
A priority for any government to introduce any legislation in the application of biotechnology in the agricultural industry in any country should be to ensure these new novel crops do not jeopardise market opportunities or impose unreasonable costs or market risk on existing producers.
Farmers should be surveyed to gain an understanding of how they react to the specific details of how GM introduction will affect them. If decisions are going to negatively impact on farmers income or livelihood, governments must involve farmers in order to negotiate issues such as adequate compensation if imposing economic liabilities.
Unbiased information regarding actual yields and costs must be obtained to accurately calculate if growing GM crops will be financially beneficial or detrimental in both the short and long term. It has been reported that incentives have been used to promote the establishment of GM crops in underdeveloped countries but these expensive incentives are not sustainable. Crop management issues need to be resolved. For example, if considering the future option of GM pharmaceutical or industrial crops, there is clear evidence that consumers do not wish to be accidentally and unknowingly consuming a range of pharmaceuticals or industrial plastics in their cereals and yet it will be impossible for farmers to avoid contamination. If wreckless decisions are made, farmers could not only lose the ability to market non-GM food crops consumers prefer, but could lose the ability to market food crops at all.
Risk management needs to be carefully assessed and addressed. For example, as coexistence is promised to Australian farmers, the questions tailored to Australian farmers and policy makers would be:
1. Do you think the principle of responsibility for coexistence for GM crops with non-GM crops should be based on ; the GM grower to keep GM crops contained ; or for the non-GM grower to keep GM contamination out (as proposed under current protocols)?
2. Should trade definitions in the coexistence plans comply with law? (The ACCC and lawyers have confirmed that under the Trade Practices Act, in order to make a positive label claim of either "non-GM" or "GM-free" there must be NO trace of contamination present. However the committee that have prepared coexistence plans claim that contamination is impossible to control so will be accepted.)
3. Prior to accepting coexistence plans, should there be proof of widespread education and acceptance, that no sector of industry is faced with unmanageable problems and that no sector of industry is faced with additional costs and liabilities without approval from that sector of industry?
4. Do you expect non-GM farmers to sell crops mixed with GM canola if crops and stock return a lower price or meets market resistance (as proposed under current protocols)?
5. If non-GM farmers must guarantee no contamination on delivery (as per receival point delivery dockets), should they accept any GM contamination in the Non-GM canola seed they plant (The seed industry currently allows a tolerance of 0.5% GM contamination in non-GM seed)?
6. Do you support the retention of the right for non-GM farmers to replant their own seeds (this right is denied in the proposed coexistence plans)?
7. Should there be risk management to ensure detection of an unwanted trace of GM contamination does not trigger a deduction of a patent user fee from the non-GM growers income through end-point royalties?
8. If GM canola is introduced and contamination or loss of GM-free status causes economic loss to others, do you think farmers should be compensated?
9. Who do you think should be liable for any economic loss caused by GM contamination or loss of GM-free status: the non-GM grower (as proposed under current protocols); the GM grower; the owner of the patent (ie. Monsanto / Bayer Cropscience); and/or the government who approved GM release?
10. Would you support a strict GM liability regime in legislation to ensure farmers are protected from unfair liability under law?
Network of Concerned Farmers www.non-gm-farmers.com
Newdegate, West Australia
Phone 08 98711562,
email: julie (at) non-gm-farmers.com
Sent: 17 January 2005 17:51
Subject: 6: What the rural people need to know
My name is Rafael Gómez Kosky from Cuba. I am working in plant biotechnology. I am a researcher and I work in genetic transformation in banana, plantain and papaya.
In my opinion, I think that the rural people need to know which are the advantages that the GMOs have that they will sow that has gone by different studies and that these doesn't represent any problem for the and her family and that GMOs will allow him to increase the yields without having to apply pesticides. Nevertheless it is necessary to create culture in people of the field on the GMOs so that they are in favor of the same ones. But it needs time and to teach to them.
Dr. Rafael Gomez Kosky
Director of Research
Instituto de Biotecnologia de las Plantas,
Universidad Central de Las Villas Carretera a Camajuani km 5.
email:koskyrg (at) yahoo.es ; rgkosky (at) ibp.uclv.edu.cu
Sent: 17 January 2005 17:51
Subject: 7: Hopes from the conference
[A message from a colleague in Ecuador. A rough English translation is provided, plus the original Spanish-language message...Moderator].
My name is Galo F. Jarrín T. and I am the national co-ordinator of the project for the Development of the national biosafery framework for Ecuador, a project which is carried out under UNEP-GEF (United Nations Environment Programme-Global Environment Facility) and the Ministry for the Environment of Ecuador.
I am very interested in participating in this e-mail conference on behalf of the project, presenting institutional, more than personal, opinions.
I hope, through this conference to get to know the experiences of individual and institutional parties related to biotechnology and biosafety at the international level to find inspiration for our activities, particularly on a subject as important as public participation in the area of GMOs.*********
(Mi nombre es Galo F. Jarrín T., soy el Coordinador Nacional del Proyecto: Desarrollo del Marco Nacional de Seguridad de la Biotecnología(Bioseguridad) para Ecuador, Proyecto que se ejecuta con el auspicio del Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Ambiente(PNUMA), el Fondo Ambiental Mundial(FMAM) y el Ministerio del Ambiente de Ecuador(MAE).
Tengo mucho interés de participar en la conferencia representando a dicho Proyecto, por ende las opiniones que emita serán mas de tipo institucional (Proyecto de Bioseguridad) antes que personal.
Espero, a través de esta Conferencia conocer las experiencias de otros actores personales e institucionales relacionados a la Biotecnología y Bioseguridad a nivel internacional, para así nutrir con nuevos insumos nuestros esfuerzos particularmente en un tema tan importante como la Participación Pública en el tema de los OGMs.)
Galo F. Jarrin
National Project Coordinator
Development of the National Biosafety Framework Project
UNEP-GEF-Ministry of Environment of Ecuador
Fax: (593-2) 2563422
Email: gjarrin (at) ambiente.gov.ec
Sent: 17 January 2005 17:52
Subject: 8: Public participation - African societies
I am Dr Mamadou Khouma, head of National Research Laboratory on Crop Production/ISRA, Senegal. I am a member of the National Committee on Biosafety who drafted proposal for a Biosafety law.
The question of public participation in GMOs debate is very important because democracy and good governance require participation of all stakeholders. The difficulty in African societies where literacy is weak is to make this participation effective. Apart from that, one needs to translate or adapt new scientific concepts in understandable words for common people. In Senegal we tried to make some booklet in local languages explaining GMOs and their applications and effects that can result from their extended use.
A big issue is how to make public participation representative of a diversity of opinion. I think that public participation must be organized if we want it to be representative. If not, we will have as many opinions as individuals. The trap is taking individual's opinion for people's one.
Dr Mamadou Khouma,
Head of National Research Laboratory on Crop Production
Institut sénégalais de recherches agricoles (ISRA)
BP 3120, Dakar,
mkhouma (at) isra.sn
Sent: 17 January 2005 17:52
Subject: 9: Prioritising rural people - Education - Radio
My name is Gwinyai Emmanuel Chibisa. I am a student, studying agriculture (animal science) in Zimbabwe.
I think the rural people should be given even first priority in decision making regarding GMOs. The main problem now is the ignorance in terms of knowing what GMOs are, their benefits and everything about them. Its sad that in countries like ours, the rural people only "know" or were (are) made to believe that GMOs are bad. There is so much ignorance. So, the first step is educating people. I believe the radio is the best medium availabe for quality information dissemination. The local languages have to be used. This will obviously enable greater public participation given the high illiteracy levels in the rural areas.
Gwinyai Emmanuel Chibisa,
Department of Animal Science
University of Zimbabwe
gcecko (at) yahoo.co.uk
Sent: 17 January 2005 17:53
Subject: 10: Development of a national policy for biotechnology
My name is Edo Lin. I am an independent consultant and have worked extensively in the seed and biotech area.
The background document to this conference focuses the question of public participation in decision making on GMOs mainly in the narrow context of the development of regulatory frameworks and risk assessments. Developing (and developed) countries are under pressure of international agreements to adopt regulatory systems to facilitate trade in GMOs and Article 23 of the Cartagena Protocol requires public awareness, education and participation. At the same time, many developing countries have not yet developed a coherent national policy on the use of biotechnology for national food security and poverty alleviation. By signing up to international agreements, national autonomy has become limited and may compromise the outcomes of public debates and participation in decision making, leading to disillusionement in the consultative process.
In spite of the pressures to develop regulatory frameworks and product approval it seems to me that the development of a national policy for biotechnology based on public consensus and decision making is the priority.
Several case studies on a participatory priority setting approach toward national biotechnology programmes such as the citizen jury (developed in India) and the Interactive Bottom-Up approach (developed in several countries in cooperation with the Netherlands) involved key stakeholders and potential beneficiaries of biotechnology and provide examples of public decision making.
309, rue de Bombon
lin.edo (at) free.fr