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Why Seed Companies Fear M鸩co

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Maize drying in San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPSOpinion by Ernesto Hernandez Lopez (orange, california, us)Thursday, November 18, 2021Inter Press Service

This promises a way out of stale GMO debates that plague us. One side argues that genetic changes to seeds increase harvests. Seed companies and industrial agriculture make up this side. Another side says GMOs damage plant DNA.

Small-scale farmers and environmentalists stand on this side. Neither addresses the other. This standstill keeps GMO policies ineffective. The court’s decision offers a path out of this by cutting at seed company positions. We should follow slow grown Mexican resistance to GMOs.

By emphasizing biodiversity, the ruling fuels sustainable farming worldwide. In legal terms, the decision found that it is constitutional for courts to block commercial permits for GMO corn. Seed companies, like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, and PHI, need these to sell seeds in México. They lost.  

But much more is at stake than permits and court orders. These agrochemical companies pursue a global push for GMO agriculture, not just in México. Farmers worldwide worry that companies control GMO seed use (not growers) and that seeds cause permanent environmental harm. Frustrations persistently spread, evident at this year’s UN COP26 and UN global food summit.

Luckily law and science are on the side of anti-GMO advocates. Because of this, México offers an example of effective legal resistance. The court stated that biodiversity is needed to allow corn plants to grow, mix genes, and adapt, as done for centuries. In other words, biodiversity is necessary for corn as a plant species to survive.

GMOs permanently hurt this. The fear is that wind carries pollen from genetically modified plants to mix with non-GMO corn, called maíz nativo. Even if unintentional, this can’t be undone and threatens corn’s genetic variety. GMOs threaten biodiversity, required for plants to adapt to drought, climate change, and varied soil conditions.

GMO proponents paint this reasoning as unscientific and emotional. They are wrong. They prejudge one country’s democratic and scientific process used to support sustainable farming.

This debate is not new. GMOs have lost in Mexican courts for years. In 2013, the Colectividad del Maíz, representing farmers, indigenous communities, environmentalists, and scientists, sued in court to halt government review of permit requests.

They argued that there were unauthorized releases of GMO genes surpassing levels permitted by México’s biosecurity law. Their central claims were that genetically modified plants mix with maíz nativo. This risks permanent damage to México’s over fifty maíz nativo varieties. Eight years ago, a trial court sided with the Colectividad. Last month, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed, after giving the Colectividad and seed companies since 2017 to make their case.

The court explained that the Precautionary Principle authorizes GMO controls to protect biodiversity. With this international law principle, governments prohibit technologies if their safety is scientifically uncertain. Think of it as way for governments to address risks in environmental, public health, or biosecurity predicaments.

Employing it, México blocks seed permits as a precaution to curtail GMO damage. This is explicitly permitted in México’s biosecurity law, passed with agrochemical industry backing in 2005. Precautionary measures are similarly supported by international laws on GMOs (2003), biodiversity (1993), and the environment (1992). In fact, Global South countries insisted that the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety explicitly include Precautionary Principle provisions.

GMO interests discount these laws to evade biosecurity measures. They deflect and tout innovation. Insisting GMOs are safe,seed companies refute environmental impacts. Deny, deny, deny, does not work.

GMO proponents flout science. Colectividad lawyers explain that seed companies preferred to not submit scientific evidence on GMO safety. This was an unforced litigation error, signaling larger problems. Observers label company justifications as fake science, because they show that GMO controls on farms fail.

For decadesmultilateral organizations and scientific studies show how GMOs threaten corn. Moreover, there is no scientific consensus on GMO safety. Put simply, GMOs damage plant genes. Scientists say that they hurt the environment and are harmful to eat.

The power of México’s ruling goes way beyond permits. It emboldens national plans to phase-out GMO corn and glyphosate, not just seeds, by 2024. So far, GMO voices stick to losing playbooks, saying this plan is not based on science. Controversies over toxic glyphosate raise more alarm. GMO farming needs this chemical herbicide. A UN agency and American courtsfound it to be carcinogenic. This has resulted court ordered payouts, creating a headache for Bayer that acquired glyphosate’s producer Monsanto.

All of this inspires sustainable farming globally. Hundreds of countries have agreed to treaties with Precautionary Principle provisions. The principle was central to crafting Mexican biosecurity measures. It can guide more governments to implement effective GMO, biodiversity, and environmental policies. Seed companies agonize thinking if more courts, regulators, or legislatures copy México.

In short, sustainable farmers, environmentalists, lawyers, and most importantly policymakers across the globe should follow México’s example. Evident in the Colectividad’s determination, resistance is the seed to sustainable success, when it combines legal, cultural, and political efforts.

Seed companies should learn that there are bigger losses than unrealized seed sales. In the long term, markets for popular legitimacy and trust from governments are far larger than demand for myopic tales on science and laws. Discussing corn, free trade ideologue David Ricardo explained the law of diminishing returns, when business choices become counterproductive. This should inspire seed makers to stop opposing precaution.

Ernesto Hernández-López is a Professor of Law at the Fowler School of Law, Chapman University (California, United States) who writes about international law and food law. 

© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Original Post: globalissues.org

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Africa Should Bargain Hard for COVID Vaccine Equity: Lessons From Indonesia During Avian Flu

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Opinion by Victoria Fan, Steve Kuo (manoa, hawaii / taipei, taiwan)Monday, December 06, 2021Inter Press Service

These travel bans are more injury upon the injury of low vaccination in Africa. Even well-intentioned rallying phrases such as “vaccine apartheid” or “vaccine equity” still lack the moral weight, indignation, and urgency that we should all feel, no matter which country we live. Words fail us.

How can it be that—even now—vast swaths of a continent go without access to these lifesaving vaccines? How is this situation even possible, let alone acceptable? For sure, there’s not been enough vaccines arriving to African countries.

Flowery donor pledges gone unfilled are no better than empty promises. Some say it’s the monopolized production from a vaccine company based outside of Africa or intellectual property issues.

Others cite supply chain and cold chain problems, the need for refrigeration, and lack of electricity. Still others note vaccine hesitancy and misinformation. Throw in “corruption” and “poor governance.” Yadda yadda yadda.

Let us please transfer all the energy spent on the manufacturing of excuses to create ideas for how we’ll get vaccines to Africa.

One thing we should have learned during COVID-19 is that so-called “leaders” are amazing at coming up with excuses for things not getting done. Let’s remind ourselves of the HIV pandemic when world “leaders” were hesitating to distribute antiretroviral treatment to so-called “developing countries.”

There was even an administrator of USAID, supposedly a leading aid agency, who conveniently came up with a racist excuse that the reason why Africans couldn’t get treatment against HIV was because they couldn’t tell time.

Excuses easily come out of the human mouth. Let us please transfer all the energy spent on the manufacturing of excuses to create ideas for how we’ll get vaccines to Africa.

If Africa can’t get the vaccines it needs, perhaps Africa should take a play from the Indonesian playbook during the 2007 avian flu.

The Indonesian Government argued that its decision in January 2007 to stop sending avian flu samples (H5N1 virus) to the WHO’s reference labs was justifiable because the samples provided freely from lower-income countries were used by companies in higher-income countries to develop vaccines that the lower-income countries couldn’t afford and couldn’t benefit from.

Indonesia wanted a guarantee that it would benefit from the samples it provided. After months of withholding the samples, WHO and the Indonesian government eventually came to an agreement and changed the terms of reference for sample sharing.

As Sedyaningsih et al noted in 2008, “This event demonstrates the unresolved imbalance between the affluent high-tech countries and the poor agriculture-based countries.” Their words still hold true more than a decade later.

When dealing with those who are habituated to a “me first” mentality, you must negotiate and bargain hard. African countries trying to gain support through an idealistic notion of global solidarity will fail unless applying “shrewd business practices.” Not just African countries, but the whole world will fail.

So, negotiate hard. Know what your opponent wants the most, and don’t give them what they want so easily till you get what you need. Empty promises and excuses won’t stop COVID-19, but hard bargaining might.

Victoria Y. Fan, ScD, is an associate professor and interim director of the Center on Aging at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a non-resident fellow at the Center for Global Development. Steve Kuo, MD, PhD, served as director of Taiwan Centers for Disease Control including during SARS, and most recently he was the president of National Yang Ming University, now National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University.


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© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Original Post: globalissues.org

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First Person: ‘Trafficking Is a Crime Can Happen in Front of Our Eyes’

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Saturday, December 04, 2021UN News

This feature has been edited for clarity and length. Mr. Chatzis was talking to Melissa Fleming, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications. You can hear the full interview on the UN podcast, Awake at Night.

“Human trafficking and migrant smuggling have evolved a lot since I first took over this job. They have become more severe, in the sense of what the criminals involved inflict on people. There is more violence, victims are younger and there are more child victims.

It is a crime that can sometimes happen in front of our eyes, as we go to work, do our shopping, drive our children to school or meet friends for dinner. There are industries that we come into contact with in our everyday lives, like hospitality, agriculture, construction, and others where trafficking victims are exploited.

Traffickers in Europe take groups of children from country to country and force them to beg. Then they take all the money and often let them starve. For criminals, it is all about the money, and people are just a way to make a profit.

We have to accept that the criminals are real people themselves. They have friends, families, and children. They may even work within the organizations that are supposed to be tackling these crimes, like the police or immigration service and abuse their profession.

© UNICEF/Jim Holmes

A mother whose daughter was trafficked at the age of sixteen covers her face to protect her identity.

‘Every trafficking story can shake you to your core’

Every trafficking story can shake you to your core. It affects children, even babies can be victims. There are girls and women of all ages being sexually exploited, and men that desperately seek employment, and find themselves in the hands of criminal gangs who then use them for forced labour and other purposes.

We now have the online aspect of the crime. Videos and images of sexual exploitation are being distributed around the world through different channels. You can remove them from one platform, but they appear on another one.

I always feel that we could all do more against this crime. In the long term, we need to really look into our model of development and how our economies are structured. The private sector has an important role to play in these efforts and a responsibility to act.  

UNODC

Ilias Chatzis and Yatta Dakowah, the UNODC Representative in Brussels, during a special session of the EU Parliament on migration – Brussels, Belgium – 2017.

‘Focus on how to stop the criminals’

With migrant smuggling, we need to focus on how to stop the criminals and not the migrants. Smuggling gangs make a lot of profit from people who are seeking a better life. While trying to stop the criminals, we should not forget the migrants themselves and the need to respect their dignity, human rights and offer protection to those that need it.

Human trafficking is not a crime that is happening only in the developing world. It occurs in every region. According to our latest Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, 148 countries out of the UN 193 Member States reported human trafficking cases in the last two years.

The team I lead is working all over the world to support countries to fight human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Through the services we provide, frontline responders, police authorities, prosecutors and judges are better equipped to protect victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants and secure convictions of the perpetrators.

I have seen a lot of human suffering in my career. I saw it first-hand when I was based in the former Yugoslavia. I experienced the uprooting of people by war, the exploitation of people by others, the links between organized crime and war, the breaking up of families and the desire to go back to where you belong, but the inability to do it, because things have changed so much that you would not recognise the place. 

We still have so much to learn from ourselves and from history. We are not learning fast enough. I took this job to hopefully make a difference. I am really trying to make sure that what I do has some real positive impact.”

© UN News (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News

Original Article: globalissues.org

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From the Field: ‘climate-smart’ Development in an Uncertain World

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UNDPSolar powered water pump in NepalFriday, December 03, 2021UN News

Solar water facility in Ethiopia, by UNDP

Every solution is different, and is adapted to the needs of each community. From micro-hydropower in Nepal, to decentralizing access to water systems in Colombia, climate-proofing rural settlements in Rwanda, and building more integrated national adaptation plans in Bhutan.

As countries work to reduce their carbon footprint and adapt to climate change, reduce risks, and build more resilient societies, important progress is being made towards a more sustainable future. Find out more here.

© UN News (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News

Original Post: globalissues.org

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