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Feeding the World Conference

Feeding The World... Are GM Crops fit for Purpose? If not, then what?
Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, 12 November 2008
This conference will examine, searchingly and honestly, the claims and counter claims of one of the most critical issues of our time.
Defra Ministers recently declared support for the use of GM crops and have given opponents a year to come up with proof that they are harmful.
Yet, a major scientific study, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), has questioned the relevance of GM to food security and has called for a shift to agro-ecological food production.
But will that be enough? Is it possible to feed a growing population on a planet of finite and diminishing resources? This question, together with the claims and counter claims about the potential and limitations of GM cropping, as well as the status of agro-ecological alternatives will be examined by leading researchers and practitioners.
With the support and participation of charitable foundations, academics, researchers, NGOs, farmers and policy makers from the UK and abroad this conference brings a wide and challenging perspective to questions and issues too often mired in cliche and propaganda.
[Event details below]
Event details
The programme so far. Please visit again for more updates and news.

Are GM crops fit for purpose? If not, then what?
The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre London SW1P 3EE November 12th  2008
PROGRAMME (As at October 13th 2008 )
10.00 Registration and  coffee
Session 1: Tackling the GM claims
Chair : Dr Jeremy Cherfas – Bioversity ROME 10.30 The UK Government’s  case. (Minister invited)
11.00 Why GM technology is not going to deliver.
Dr Michael Antoniou  Kings College LONDON
11.30 Why the GM route won't feed a hungry Africa Eric Kisiangani –  Practical Action, Nairobi, Kenya
12.00 The inevitability of geneflow – environment and health  risks.
Prof. Jack A Heinemann University of Auckland NZ
12.30 – 14.00 LUNCH
Session 2: Feeding the World
Chair: Prof. Dr. Hardy Vogtmann –  President, Organic Research Centre
14.00 What is feeding the world and food security anyway. Are these realistic aims?
Dr Charlie Clutterbuck
14.30 Nutritional diversity and food-based approaches to malnutrition Dr  Jeremy Cherfas Bioversity ROME
15.00 IAASTD critique of industrial agriculture & the relevance of small-scale agroecology.
Dr Janice Jiggins Wageningen University  HOLLAND
15.30 Examples of successful agro-ecology Julia Wright Garden Organic  (HDRA) UK
16.00 The Slow Food vision
Speaker from Slow Food UK (tbc)
16.30 Summing up
Prof. Dr. Hardy Vogtmann
16.45 Conference ends
Day tickets available at a supported rate of GBP65 including lunch, refreshments and conference pack.
Feeding the World Conference partners tell us why this event is so important to them. It is a big debate, with many issues, many questions and very few real answers.
"There is a breath-taking naivety about the belief that GM can be a silver bullet to solve all the problems agriculture is currently facing. All the energy the Government and the proponents of GM are currently investing in a renaissance of the debate about the benefits of GM is a distraction from the real issues."
"There is no evidence that GM crops increase yields, reduce pesticide use or bring any public benefits to society. And there is a growing body of evidence there could be health risks. There is also the genie out of the bottle argument that once these organisms are released you cannot recall them and the choice issue because the fact remains that the vast majority of consumers in Europe do not want to purchase GM foods if they can help it.”
- Patrick Holden, The Soil Association
"GM crops have failed to deliver the long-promised benefits of the biotech industry. Instead, increased pesticide use caused by these crops threatens the environment and communities around the world.”
"The biotech industry tells Africans that we need GM crops to tackle the food needs of our population. But the majority of GM crops are used to feed animals in rich countries, to produce damaging agrofuels, and don't even yield more than conventional crops."
- Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth International GMO coordinator in Nigeria
"It is now clearer than ever that Europe is right to take a precautionary approach to GM crops. They are not the solution to the urgent environmental and economic challenges facing farmers both in Europe and in developing countries. More and more evidence is showing that around the world green farming methods are providing real solutions whilst boosting local economies and creating jobs.”
- Clare Oxborrow, Friends of the Earth’s GM Campaigner
"Quite simply, the GM route reinforces an outdated model of industrial, energy reliant agriculture, wholly unsuitable for adapting to and dealing with the conditions that climate change and expensive, scarce oil bring for global food security."
"Most importantly we have to ask if undue research and commercial focus on GM foods and crops is diverting our attention from the development of truly reliable alternatives of sustainable (organic) agriculture which are capable of feeding a hungry world today and tomorrow.”
- Richard Sanders, The Organic Research Centre
“World hunger and food shortage are complex issues largely social and economic in nature. There is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone, it's just that the economic system put in place by politicians has failed to ensure that that food reaches the people who need it most whilst other sectors of the population are becoming obese. The IAASTD process concluded that 'business as usual is not the answer' to world hunger…”
“The Government should stop listening to industry propaganda that is shamelessly trying to exploit the current food price rises – there is no evidence that GM crops have increased average yields. The reasons we have no GM crops in the UK are either that the Labour Government did not approve them or the industry withdrew approved crops on a voluntary basis.”
- Pete Riley, GM Freeze.
Report Shows Food Authority is Failing New Zealand GE Free NZ, 21 October 2008
A new report shows the food authority 'FSANZ' is undermining the rights of New Zealanders to choose safe food, as well as threatening our safety-record for exports.
The independent report into FSANZ's operations in Australia has revealed a damning record of complicity and compromise in maintaining food standards that are truly world-class, and which provide genuine safety testing of the food supply.
The report is endorsed by 10 international scientists, including New Zealand molecular biologist Dr Jack Heinemann, at the University of Canterbury.
It comes just weeks after New Zealand milk products destined for Korea were rejected because of melamine contamination. At the time a spokesperson from the Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) Sandra Daley dismissed the issue and said the low levels of melamine did not trigger any concerns for New Zealand's Food Authorities.
This astonishing response, coming on the heals of Fonterra's San Lu contamination incident, shows staff at the NZFSA and FSANZ have failed to realise that both Australia and New Zealand must be able to meet the highest food safety standards in the world to protect our people and export reputations.
"We cannot have our Food Authorities dismissing other country's standards as 'too stringent': we have to match and exceed them, or we will be seen as second-rate commodity-exporters," says Jon Carapiet from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.
The new report into FSANZ reveals that the Authority has been selling people short in terms of consumer choice and protection from GE imports. The contents of the study are a wake-up call to government on both sides of the Tasman that our food supply has been hijacked and is open to dangerous compromise by overseas interests.
It was already clear that the New Zealand government has been dismissive of consumer rights by refusing to allow country-of-origin labeling that Australian's have secured. But it is now more than ironic that the statutory requirement of the food authorities to “promote trade” is threatening the economic wellbeing of our export-based economies.
"The actions and policies revealed in the report constitute an astonishing betrayal of the public interest in a world where Australia and New Zealand food systems need to be genuinely clean, green, ethical and safe for consumers at home and abroad," says Jon Carapiet.
"They have sold out the consumer on protection from GE foods, and the fear is that they will sell out our export reputation by compromising standards down to the lowest common denominator.”
Despite the warning of The Australian Insurance Council that food manufacturers could face 'asbestos-style' lawsuits in decades ahead arising from the use of GE foods, FSANZ has continued to approve them into the food chain. Yet there is no public health monitoring of the effects on consumers, so doctors cannot even know if a diet-related factor is at work in disease.
The UK government proposed 'tracking' of consumers of GE foods by monitoring their supermarket purchases using loyalty cards, much as people use at Foodtown and Woolworth's in New Zealand.
"The New Zealand government may have once expressed an interest in this approach to public health monitoring of GE foods but as far as we know there is absolutely no tracking or monitoring of health effects in our populations," says  Jon Carapiet. "There is nothing at all.”
The report highlights facts that give the lie to FSANZ's misleading claims about their scientific and rigorous approach to GE food testing.
These facts include:
-No standardised testing for GE foods
-Failure to phase out the use of antibiotic-resistance marker genes
-Inadequate assessment of potential toxicity, and allergens
-Reliance on industry data which is notoriously unreliable
-No monitoring of the effects of eating GE food
The report also warns that the rapid commercialisation of Genetic Engineering may be fundamentally flawed. The report cites Prof.Jack Heinemann as saying:  “The real worry for us has always been that the commercial agenda for biotech may be premature, based on what we have long known was an incomplete understanding of genetics. Because gene patents and the genetic engineering process itself are both defined in terms of genes acting independently, regulators may be unaware of the potential impacts arising from these network effects.”
New Zealanders and Australians deserve better from those people at FSANZ and the NZFSA appointed as watchdogs, paid by the public purse, and trusted to genuinely care for the integrity of the food supply.
Jon Carapiet - 0210507681
Eating in the Dark - How Australia's food regulator is failing us on genetically engineered food. Greenpeace Australia Pacific, October 2008