Global shock over award of World Food Prize to GM executives

Scientists and environmental campaigners around the world have expressed their shock over the award of the World Food Prize to GM scientists and biotech company executives. On 19 June, the winners of the 2013 World Food Prize were announced. The prize goes to three executives of biotech companies, including Monsanto executive vice president and chief technology officer, Robert Fraley.

Ellen Teague, Columban from the JPIC Media Desk told ICN: "Many Church organisations, have presented the most vocal opposition to GM crops from Catholic sources over the past ten years. Both the Columbans and Jesuits have worked for decades with poor agricultural communities in developing countries.

"Fr Sean McDonagh, an Irish Columban Father, who was based in the Philippines for more than 20 years, says that, 'far from feeding the world I believe that GM food will further exacerbate world hunger'. He points out that those who are poised to gain most from GM foods are multinational corporations, mostly US-based. After juggling with the components of food crops they patent their products and anyone who uses them in the future has to pay them a fee. At least two million people agree with him – that is the number of people who marched on 25 May around the world in a number of cities – including London – to challenge the promotion of GM crops by US biotechnology giant Monsanto.

"The Jesuits’ Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre in Lusaka, Zambia, has long challenged GM crops as a solution to hunger in Zambia. Fr Peter Henriot SJ has pointed out, “there is certainly a moral imperative to feed our hungry world, but there is no moral imperative to do so with biotechnology”. A whole nine years ago they produced a paper suggesting that the surest path toward elimination of hunger and malnutrition is to eliminate poverty and the unjust social structures that underlie it.

"These are the injustices that are the clear subjects of the moral imperatives found in the social teaching of the church, eg:  trade, debt, land reform, violation of human rights, degradation of the environment. They also underline that it is the resource-poor farmers who are most vulnerable and who will suffer the most if the international GM experiment fails.  

"The introduction of GM food faces two important challenges. First, the current design of commercially promoted genetically modified organisms is based on an industrial model of agriculture that favours large farms and high external inputs at the expense of smaller family farms.  This introduces a serious dependency of small-scale and mostly poor farmers on large multinational corporations for seeds and complementary necessities. 

Secondly, the ability to practice alternative agricultural approaches – such as organic farming – becomes limited, such as the ancient tradition of saving seeds each year for replanting. 
I for one am dismayed by the World Food Prize being awarded to GMO executives, one being a Monsanto executive.  Thank goodness the Columbans, Jesuits and the National J&P Network of England and Wales, which had Vandana Shiva speak at its annual July conference in 2010, are prepared to stand by the world’s small farmers and say that moves in the direction of GM crops food will not address the fundamental causes of hunger."

Global food expert and Right Livelihood Award Recipient Vandana Shiva from India said: "Not only are GMOs unsafe, they are destroying biodiversity, increasing farmers' dependency on seed and chemicals and leading to the emergence of super pests and super weeds. This is a recipe for food insecurity and non sustainability."

Frances Moore Lappé (USA), Right Livelihood Award Recipient and bestselling author of 'Diet' for a small planet“ commentsed: "The honorees of the World Food Prize are contributing to the problems that keep us locked in a world where hundreds of millions of people are hungry while there is plenty of food".

81 Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award and Members of the World Future Council jointly condemned this year’s choice of the World Food Prize Jury in a statement originally published on the Huffington Post.

They said: “The choice of the 2013 World Food Prize is an affront to the growing international consensus on safe, ecological farming practices that have been scientifically proven to promote nutrition and sustainability. Many governments have rejected GMOs and as many as two million citizens in 52 countries recently marched
in opposition to GMOs. In living democracies, discounting this knowledge and these many voices is not acceptable.“

To read the full statement and see the list of signatories, please see:

For more information and recorded statements on film by Vandana Shiva and Frances Moore Lappé please go to:

Share this story