There’s nothing more threatening for the state and the corporations than to have a load of people not stopped by fear.”
Neth Dao, Philippines
Neth Dao became active against genetic engineering in the mid-nineties when she joined other groups in the Philippines trying to prevent the importation of genetically engineered rice. She is executive director of the Southeast Asia Regional Institute for Community Education (SEARICE). “Our work is proving that what farmers do is just as scientific as what the white-clad scientists do,” says Dao. Like Shiva, Dao sees genetic engineering as a rerun of the Green Revolution, when small farmers couldn’t get loans or crop insurance unless they switched to chemical-dependent seeds. Those who refused were forced off the land; those who took the seeds spiraled ever deeper into debt. “It will not take a genius to guess that the same thing [that happened in the Green Revolution] will happen with GE seeds. Technological breakthroughs like GE will not achieve their goals because they don’t happen in a vacuum. Why are farmers regarded only as beneficiaries of these technologies when they have so much to offer in terms of science, technology, and resources?” questions Dao, who works with the Network Opposed to Genetically Modified Organisms, or NO GMOs!, which was formed in 1998 to educate the public and to counter the corporations. No law currently prohibits or allows the selling of GMOs in the Philippines. The first trials of genetically engineered crops using Monsanto’s pesticide-laden corn occurred there this year.
Maria Jos Guazzelli, Brazil
Maria Jos Guazzelli of Centro Ecolgico has been advising the government and farmers about ecological farming practices for nearly two decades. Centro Ecolgico was formed in the 1970s to protest the introduction of Green Revolution technologies. “Biological pollution is a natural consequence of genetically modified organisms. They will cross with local varieties and destroy the diversity that exists. Besides that, there is the dependence that the small farmers will have on the corporations. We believe that no GMO seed should be allowed in the environment before being proved harmless,” says Guazzelli. Although a federal court order keeps GMO seeds from being sold in Brazil, trials of the special seeds are allowed, and Guazzelli’s home state of Rio Grande do Sul is one site for the trials. Guazzelli pushed the courts to take the precedent-setting step of declaring the state a GMO-free zone last year. That ruling has since been overturned by the local parliament, but the battle wages on. The yes and no rulings have spurred other states to consider GMO-free status, and in England and Japan, where demand for non-GE foods has forced companies to abandon U.S. producers, food buyers are looking to Brazil.
Heather Ryan started the EDGE (Ending Destructive Genetic Engineering) campaign.