Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
September 24, 2001
CCODP Fall Action Campaign
Say 'no' to patenting of life
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Have you ever wondered whether your signature on a Development and Peace postcard or letter ever made any difference to what was happening in the world?
Your efforts last year had an immediate impact. More than 140,000 letters were collected from across Canada by Development and Peace. The letters called on the Canadian government to make corporations more responsible in their trade and investment activities abroad.
One Crown corporation, the Export Development Corporation (EDC), came under intense scrutiny, not only from D&P and other Church and non-governmental groups but also from Canada's auditor-general.
D&P demanded that the secretive EDC adhere to higher environmental and social assessment standards and greatly improve its disclosure policy.
The auditor-general's report, issued in May, confirmed what D&P had been saying — the EDC's environmental assessment process was terribly sub-standard. Even with improved assessment criteria, many approved projects carried an unacceptable level of environmental risk.
Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew has recommended that the EDC identify the standards it will apply in conducting environmental reviews and ensure that environmentally related commitments are met. He has demanded that another EDC audit be held in two years.
Efforts to reform the EDC will continue under the leadership of the Non-Governmental Organizations' Working Group on the EDC, of which D&P is a member.
What impact did the D&P campaign have? After meeting on May 25 with Pettigrew, the new executive director of Development and Peace, Robert Letendre, was thanked by Emilie Revil, coordinator of the NGO working group.
"This ton of letters, " she wrote, "had a forceful impact on the media and the civil servants involved in legislative reform and helped to move them to consider environmental, social and human rights issues in the process of reform now underway.
"You have contributed greatly to this campaign at a very crucial moment."
FALL EDUCATION AND ACTIONThis year, Development and Peace is inviting you to learn about biotechnology and its effect on the food we eat as well as its effect on the farmers who grow our food. This campaign is of great relevance not only to the people of the South but also to Canadians.
Biopatenting is the legal process by which corporations establish ownership of life forms. Scientific research on the genes of plants and animals has made it possible to isolate specific genes and to remove them and splice them into other life forms.
These genetically modified organisms as well as the genes themselves can be patented in some countries, including Canada. Transnational corporations have begun to patent seeds, market them and control their distribution.
The patenting of seeds poses a dangerous threat to more 1.4 billion men and women farmers who collect their own seed from harvest to harvest.
The trans-national corporations that profit from the sale of these seeds tempt farmers with low-cost samples. Soon farmers become caught up in the whole system of chemical inputs needed to grow these plants.
Because seeds are carried by the wind, neighbouring farmers may also find themselves forced to pay licensing fees to companies that hold patents on these seeds. With life already a daily struggle, each extra expense can mean the difference between food security and starvation.
Agro-biotechnology companies claim that the genetically modified seed varieties will help eradicate world hunger by producing higher yields to feed a growing population. However, they ignore the fact that hunger is caused not by food shortages, but by poverty and inequality.
Even though there is enough food in the world to feed its entire population, every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger. Three quarters of those who starve are children.
This is not hunger caused by famine or war — which account for only 10 per cent of hunger deaths. It is the slow, grinding wasting of lives because people do not have enough to eat on a daily basis, not because there is not enough food, but because it is not justly distributed.
The Canadian government has vigorously promoted the patenting of life in several international institutions. This position is encouraged by the Canadian biotechnology sector, an industry experiencing rapid growth.
As citizens we cannot stand idly by as Canada promotes policies that heighten poverty, threaten the environment and increase hunger throughout the world.
In the Fall Education and Action campaign this year, Development and Peace is asking the Canadian government to oppose the patenting of life forms and to stand against policies that would result in the control over seed and life forms being transferred from the public to the private domain.
Postcards, reflecting that request, will be available in churches throughout the archdiocese during the next few weeks. Your support is needed to ensure that the Canadian government listens.
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