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Shocked and Disappointed with Oxfam America

NOTE: Two letters of protest to Oxfam America over its cosying up to Monsanto at this upcoming event:
Subject: Shocked and disappointed
From: Claire Robinson
To: Oxfam America

Dear all:

I was impressed by the Oxfam briefing paper of Oct 2008, Double-Edged Prices: Lessons from the food price crisis, which heavily criticised big food and agribiz companies, in particular Monsanto, for cashing in on the global food crisis. To me, it typified the clear-sighted stance Oxfam has traditionally taken on GM and agribiz firms and their activities.

So what on earth is Oxfam America doing providing a platform (The Global Food Crisis: Time for Another Green Revolution?, New York) for a Monsanto Vice President - Kevin L. Eblen, Monsanto's former Director of Mergers and Acquisitions, now Monsanto's "Public Policy and Sustainability Lead", WITH NO PRETENCE OF BALANCE IN THE DEBATE?

And there's the guy from Gates Foundation, which has awarded $5.4 million to political and lobbying designed to break down regulatory resistance to GM crops in Africa.

As for IRRI, their annual reports from 1963-1982 show grants from a whole array of US and European chemical corporations including Monsanto, Shell Chemical, Union Carbide Asia, Bayer Philippines, Eli Lily, Occidental Chemical, Ciba Geigy (later part of Novartis Seeds which is now part of Syngenta), Chevron Chemical, Upjohn, Hoechst, and Cyanamid Far East.

Does Oxfam International support Oxfam America's apparent support for GM, an unsafe, economically and agronomically risky, and fundamentally anti-poor and unsustainable technology?

Unless I see Oxfam distancing itself from the GM and agribiz companies and corporate-backed bodies represented at this event, this will be the end of my lifelong support for this hitherto heroic organisation.

Claire Robinson
Subject: Re: The Global Food Crisis: Time for Another Green Revolution?
From: Jonathan Matthews
To: Oxfam America

Dear Oxfam

I'm writing to protest at the second program in Oxfam America's co-organized Food Crisis Series - The Global Food Crisis: Time for Another Green Revolution? (New York, Feb 20 2009)

I am totally at a loss to understand how Oxfam of all organisations could provide a platform for Monsanto and its supporters to argue they have the answers to the global food crisis when - to a very considerable degree - they are the cause of the current crisis.

A 2008 World Bank report concluded, as have many others, that increased "biofuel" production is the major cause of the increase in food prices. Monsanto has been at the very heart of the ethanol lobby and is part of the Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy (AAFE) - a big agribiz lobby group launched to keep the ethanol mandates in place and to counter criticisms that "biofuels" take land from food production and are directly contributing to the crisis that has led to rising food prices and which has put lives and livelihoods at risk around the world.

Monsanto, of course, has profited spectacularly from the food crisis that it's helped to create. This has included engaging in massive price hikes for its seeds and herbicides. At the same time it's used the crisis as a PR springboard to promote its business via renewed claims that it has the answers to poverty and hunger.

As Daniel Howden, Africa correspondent of The Independent newspaper, succinctly put it, "The climate crisis was used to boost biofuels, helping to create the food crisis; and now the food crisis is being used to revive the fortunes of the GM industry."

It's use of the crisis as a PR platform is now being assisted by Oxfam America. This despite the fact that the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) concluded, after a thorough sifting of the evidence, that GM crops are not a critical part of the solution to the problems arising from poverty, hunger and climate change.

Prof Denis Murphy, head of biotechnology at the University of Glamorgan in Wales has hit the nail on the head, "The cynic in me thinks that they're just using the current food crisis and the fuel crisis as a springboard to push GM crops back on to the public agenda. I understand why they're doing it, but the danger is that if they're making these claims about GM crops solving the problem of drought or feeding the world, that's bullshit." And now Oxfam America has slapped its logo right across the BS by co-organizing an event at which every speaker is a well known GM promoter.

The new green revolution a la Monsanto will lead to more food crises, not fewer.

Yours truly
Jonathan Matthews