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Translation: The World Bank Vs Bio-Security

The World Bank Vs Bio-Security

by Silvia Ribeiro, GRUPO ETC, published in Argenpress, 20/07/2006
Translation by Tlaxcala

The fundamental role of the World Bank is not to act as a financial institution but to frame countries' policies so as to prepare the way for private corporations to act later on in those countries with legal guarantees. They do this with a mixture of theoretically "soft" loans (conditioned in every way and which in order to be repaid bleed the debtor countries dry) a percentage of ordinary loans and another part in loans ultimately likely to be written off.

These last , which seem like donations, are in reality the most costly because it is these that set up the advance of multinational companies in areas where they could not enter by other means, or at least where to do so would have turned out much more costly in terms of money and goodwill. A typical example of this latter form of behaviour are the projects funded by the World Bank for the Global Environment Fund. This is administered by the Bank together with the environmental and development programs of the United Nations (UN Development Program and the UN Environmental Program)

Within the GEF's Biodiversity policy for example one finds the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor and other exampls of the legtimization of the industrial use of biodiversity, justification of biopiracy and displacement in the name of "conservation" of rural working families and indigenous peoples from their ancestral territories and likewise the sale of communal forestry management systems, so they become part of the "environmental services market". The promotion and justification of genetically modified organisms via misnamed biosecurity projects fits inevitably into this context.

The Global Environmental Fund has already taken a hail of criticism on this matter in recent years, with the GEF/UNEP biosecurity projects that have been strongly criticised by civil society organization in practically all the countries where they have worked in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The common denominator has been that these projects, under cover of training and "multi-sector" dialogue programs, in reality paved the way for biosecurity norms that favour the global interests of the handful of multinational GM businesses.

In a new challenge for the GEF, two multi-million projects are now under consideration for approval in Africa and Latin America whose main aims are to legitimize the introduction of GM crops in the centres of origin of crops that have special importance for the rural working family economies of mega-diverse countries.

In Latin America's case, they seek to "train" the governments of Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica to manage GM contamination resulting from the introduction of GM maize, potato, yuca, rice and cotton and on the other hand to manage public opinion critical of GM techonology by means of cost-benefit analysis and standardization of what they call "adequate" scientific means of contamination management. In no part of the project do they allow that the best biosecurity to prevent contamination is not to allow GM crops at all, as millions of rural workers, indigenous people, environmentalists, consumers and responsible scientists demand in their countries. On the contrary, the basic assumption is that GM organisms either are already introduced or inevitably will be. With the blatant further difficulty that four of the crops we are discussing originated in the countries involved, where they are the product of thousands of years of rural families' work on their adaptation. Rice, although it originates from Asia has also been adopted by rural working families of the region, for whom, together with the other crops in question, it forms the basis of their economies, cultures and forms of life.

The project would be coordinated by the International Centre of Tropical Agriculture ( one of the 18 international public centres of the CGIAR(1) system which according to its mission ought to work in support of rural working family agriculture, not sabotage it ) together with the countries' governmental institutions, universities and private institutes. The advisers include institutions supported by the very multinational businesses who are the main beneficiaries of the project.

In Mexico's case the partners are the National Biodiversity Commission, Sagarpa(2) and Cibiogem(3). María Francisca Acevedo and Amanda Gálvez are the contacts. The project was sent for "expert" review to Ariel Morales of Cinvestav (4). In the notes he sent to the GEF, he says for example, "I don't agree that crops modified by modern biotechnology are the most important in the medium term. They are important right now! The challenges in the short and medium term are GM plants to produce GM pharmaceuticals, fish and arthropods. That's why I see the need to include these areas in the proposed program."

In other words, it is not sufficient for Mexico to already be a guinea pig for multinationals through the contamination of native maize, it also has to be a pioneer in other devastating forms of contamination.

The project presented to the GEF does not include Alvarez' proposals, for now. But without any doubt, it puts clearly his real intention : to give multinational businesses time while they prepare their arguments to justify new generations of GM organisms.

Civil society is vigilant and a wide campaign has already begun in both continents to stop these projects with a first denunciatory report prepared by the African Centre for Biosecurity, Grain(5), Grupo ETC (6) and the Network for a Transgenics Free America (7). More information can be obtained from these organizations.

Translator's notes
1. CGIAR - Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
2. Sagarpa - Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentacion.
3. Cibiogem - Comisión Intersecretarial de Bioseguridad y Organismos Genéticamente Modificados.
4. Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados (Centre for Research and Advanced Studies).
7. (RALLT)


Translated from Spanish into English by toni solo, a member of Tlaxcala (, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation is Copyleft.

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