Open letter to the UN

TO: Tony Hall
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Food and Agriculture Organization

Dear Ambassador Hall,
We the undersigned citizens of many countries on every continent deplore your inflammatory remarks (Reuters News Service, December 9) suggesting that African leaders who reject genetically engineered food aid should be tried “for the highest crimes against humanity in the highest courts of the world. “This reckless comment reeks of hypocrisy and bad political judgment and has no legal basis in international law. It serves only to further damage the reputation of the U.S. government already suffering for its unilateral, aggressive and abusive foreign policy. An apology is in order.

The U.S. has never supported the highest court in the world, the U.N.-sponsored International Criminal Court. To the contrary, it sought to prevent its existence and since its establishment in July 2002, the U.S. has used intense diplomatic pressure to weaken its implementation by other countries. To invoke this institution now in challenging Zambia and other African nations over their sovereign right to reject foods that European countries and many others have similarly rejected is utterly disingenuous.

In fact, the only country depriving Africans of much-needed food relief is the U.S., when it insists that its donation of $51 million be spent ONLY for U.S.-sourced grains. The purchase of non-genetically engineered food from other African countries, Brazil, China, Hungary, Russia and other regions as yet free of genetic contamination would readily alleviate the impending famines and at the same time stimulate agricultural productivity and economic development in these regions. In fact, some 70% of all corn produced in the U.S. is still not genetically engineered – so we could even procure what the Africans prefer from our own farmers.

You criticize African leaders for protecting their people, while our government sends food aid containing StarLinkTM, a variety of genetically engineered corn that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved for human consumption in this country. Perhaps the U.S. should be tried for this crime against humanity.

Why should Zambians be expected to eat food that Americans, Europeans and others will not? Why should any people be expected to eat food that has not been adequately tested by the manufacturers or the U.S. government for safety in humans, especially if this untested food will comprise two-thirds of their daily caloric intake? Why should Zambians ingest genetically engineered corn that may affect the stomach lining and cause allergies, and contains an antibiotic-resistant gene – when their immune systems are already weakened by malnutrition?

Your crude remarks seem intended to divert attention from a far more troubling issue: the political reasons that the U.S. government is foisting genetically modified corn on people in need around the world, not just in drought-stricken Africa, when supplies of conventional grain are available.

The U.S. has a corn surplus here, because genetically engineered foods are rejected in many commercial markets. Do you also propose that the leaders of these countries be tried for high crimes against the U.S.?

A cynical food aid strategy that dumps unsaleable corn in vulnerable communities, relieves the U.S. of these burdensome stocks while giving Monsanto and other biotechnology companies a boost by destroying competing sources of non-genetically engineered grains from the world marketplace.

Mr. Hall, you have sacrificed a fine reputation as an advocate for the hungry to serve Monsanto and the rest of the biotechnology industry that has captured the voice of the Bush Administration’s White House. Zambian President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa invoked the sovereign rights of governments to protect their citizens. He said that foods untested for human consumption posed “a danger to the lives of citizens” and that the import represented an immediate possible threat of “contaminating local indigenous and hybrid seed stocks” needed to reconstruct the region’s agricultural capacity and food security. His view is shared by more than 100 other governments around the world that have signed the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Convention on Biological Diversity – both international treaties negotiated under auspices of the United Nations.

It is also shared by those of us signing this letter below, on behalf of following organizations from following countries. Are we also to be tried for high crimes?

Yours truly,
LA LEVA DI ARCHIMEDE
ASSOCIATION FOR FREEDOM OF CHOICE
ITALY

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