Indian environment activist Vandana Shiva and French anti-globalisation crusader Jose Bove Wednesday launched a campaign against US food and seed giant Monsanto on the sidelines of the global trade talks here.
The duo also handed a petition to officials of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to oppose the trade dispute filed by the US, Argentina and Canada under the rules of the multilateral organisation on genetically modified (GM) food.
Vandana Shiva by Nitin Rai for Asiaweek.
The petition - which Shiva claimed has been signed by 135,000 citizens from over 100 countries and 740 organisations representing 60 million people - was to be given to WTO Director General Pascal Lamy, who instead sent a representative.
"The petition asks the World Trade Organisation not to undermine the rights of countries like the European Union to take appropriate measures to protect their ecology and environment from GM Food," Shiva said.
The backdrop for the short event were placards and posters that read, "WTO: Hands Off Our Food" and "Monsanto Plunders and Kills Peasants and the Planet".
The organisers - including Friends of Earth International chairperson Meena Raman and Member of the European Parliament Carolina Lucas - also delivered a box of organic food to the WTO official.
Concerned by the food related crisis in the 1990s, EU has regulations to control the GM food industry, which followed a four-year ban on such produce in 1999. The US, however, says it violated the WTO agreement.
"This is not a case of US versus the EU, but clearly Monsanto versus the civil society," Shiva, registered as a representative of non-government organisations, told IANS.
The EU and the US have a discord over a regulation of Brussels on genetically modified food. The US claims the regulation violates the WTO trade agreement, but the EU says free trade is not truly free without informed consent.
"The WTO has become a tool for big companies to patent seeds and even our lives since it allows such measures under the agreement on trade related intellectual property rights," Bove said.
"GM foods make farmers dependent on big companies, threaten food security and take away consumer choice. A ruling that goes in favour of the US will have a major implications," he warned.
Shiva says her next course of action is to launch a satyagraha - the philosophy of non-violent protest adopted by Mahatma Gandhi - in India against Monsanto.
"We have to protect the rights of Indian farmers and consumers."
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