CAGJ Director Heather Day’s Speech at March 16, 2012 Action Protesting Gates Foundation’s ties to Monsanto

AGRA Watch is a campaign of CAGJ that since 2007 has been working in solidarity with multiple partners in Africa and in the US to pressure the Gates Foundation and their “Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa” – AGRA –  to not work with Monsanto nor promote chemically based, industrial agriculture.

Following the lead of African farmers and peasants around the world, we are fighting for Food Sovereignty, here and everywhere.

Food sovereignty encompasses seven principles —

1. Healthy, nutritious, culturally appropriate food is a basic human right

2.  True Agrarian reform guaranteeing the nondiscriminatory access of all people to land, credit, training, technology and markets

3.  Fair Trade in Agriculture: Societies must recognize food first as a necessity for life rather than an item of wealth through trade

4. Ending corporate domination over all aspects of our food and agriculture

5. Social Justice and Peace: food and agriculture must not be used as a weapon for exploitation and oppression of people. This includes ending all forms of violence against women.

6.  Support of Sustainable Agriculture and Protecting Natural Resources, including conservation of biodiversity, healthy soils and reduced use of agro-chemicals.

7. Democratic control:  peasants, small farmers and all of us must have truly democratic control over our own society’s food and agriculture

Boiled down, Food sovereignty is about radically democratizing food systems at all levels, and it starts here.

As you can see in your flyer, in 2009 our research revealed numerous ties between Gates and Monsanto in Kenya, and we know this is true in other countries as well.  It was significant to show this in Kenya, because that is the headquarters of AGRA in Africa.

In 2010 we helped to expose the Gates Foundation’s purchase of 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock with an estimated worth of $23.1 million. We were heartened by the media and activist attention to our campaign in response.

Last year we leafleted at the opening of the new Gates Foundation headquarters, educating hundreds of people about our concerns.

This year we’re planning an international conference to take place in one year, with African and US partners – in the US these include Food First, Pesticide Action Network, Grassroots International and National Family Farm Coalition.

Monsanto’s attempt to spread GMOs and to control the hybrid seed market throughout Africa is actively resisted on the continent.

I want to emphasize that we are not only concerned about Monsanto and Gates pushing GMO’s. They are pushing a whole set of inputs that carry with them intellectual property rights that are held by corporations and not farmers. And some of this amounts to stealing genetic resources that farmers have controlled for millennia.

I will give you 2 examples of African resistance, but there are thousands:

South Africa is the one country amongst Africa’s 54 countries where GMOs have been grown for several years. This is because Monsanto and various western “development” programs including USAID, used South Africa as the entering wedge to the continent—it was the biggest economy, most closely tied in to global capitalism, etc. The African Centre for Biodiversity found, and I quote, “that Monsanto controls 50% of the maize seed market…In the rapidly growing market for genetically modified maize seed, the biotech giant’s grip on the market is absolute…Monsanto’s dominance has resulted in GM maize seed prices rising by over 45% in the last 5 years, while the price farmers receive for maize has stagnated.”  When Monsanto attempted to buy out more competitors to completely control the seed market, several groups including the African Centre for Biodiversity brought a legal challenge.  They brought Monsanto to court before their Competitions Tribunal – and the case is still going thru the courts today. Those institutions and corporations involved with pushing GMOs into South Africa are now partners of the Gates Foundation and they’re working to spread GMOs thought Africa.

My 2nd example is GBIACK and Common Ground in Kenya, who I visited 2 years ago.  They are two of many examples of Farmers who are using agroecological farming methods, meaning they rely on the resources available to them on their land, and become independent of the inputs such as hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers that put them into debt and poison their soil. With very few resources available to them, GBIACK and Common Ground train tens of thousands of other farmers in these methods. I want you to hear the words of Farmer Samuel Nderitu, who co-founded GBIACK.

Samuel says, “African farmers are seeking food sovereignty and not imposed unhealthy foods. Indigenous knowledge that has been embraced by farmers in Africa for decades has been farmer friendly, environmentally sound and humane, as opposed to modernized agriculture…African food is healthy and nutritious. We don’t need GMOs!”

At the Johannesburg Earth Summit in 2002, a Zimbabwean farmer criticized U.S. dumping of genetically engineered food aid in Africa. He said: “What is being presented as an act of charity is in fact nothing more than an act of marketing.”

Problems with US influence over agriculture in Africa are not new.  What is relatively new, however, is the influence of the Gates Foundation, the richest foundation in the world run by one of the richest men in the world.

We demand that Bill and Melinda Gates, and everyone at their Foundation, listen to African farmers, the vast majority of whom are women, because if they don’t it will mean an unmitigated disaster that will drive millions off land, destroy soils, and consolidate power in monopolies.  Gates’ supposed solution will in fact make Africa worse, not better.

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