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Call on IAASTD to Press on Despite Biotech Industry Taking Their Ball Home

Immediate release (18 Jan 2008)

Calls to Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341065

GM Freeze [1] has urged the partners in the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) to press on and publish their report [2] despite the decision by the biotechnology industry [3] to withdraw from the process.

An Intergovernmental Plenary to finalise the IAASTD’s reports was due to take place in Nairobi, Kenya, this week but was postponed because of the current political unrest in the country. The Plenary has been rescheduled for April 2008.

Final drafts of the reports, covering over 2000 pages, were posted on the IAASTD web site following the final drafting meeting held in November 2007. This week a letter from CropLife International (the organization which respresents the biotechnology companies globally) announcing its withdrawal from the process was released. Other supporters of genetically modified crops have also withdrawn their support for the current drafts [4]. In an editorial this week, Nature criticises the biotech companies decision to pull out [5].

The latest draft IAASTD reports reflect the complex demands increasingly being placed on agriculture and farmers and that a single technology alone, such as GM crops, will not provide sustainable solutions:

New Approaches to Research and Development
A problem-oriented approach to biotechnology R&D would focus investment on local priorities identified through participatory and transparent processes, and favour multifunctional solutions to local problems. These processes require new kinds of support for the public to critically engage in assessments of the technical, social, political, cultural, gender, legal, environmental and economic impacts of modern biotechnology. Biotechnologies should be used to maintain local expertise and germplasm so that the capacity for further research resides within the local community. Such R&D would put much needed emphasis onto participatory breeding projects and agroecology.[6]

Pete Riley for GM Freeze commented:

The IAASTD process has developed since it was set up and has come to recognise that previous technology led attempts to solve hunger and malnutrition in the Global South have not reached the people in greatest need nor have the attempts to open up markets to global competition. As well as producing food and natural raw materials farmers in the South are now being asked to contribute to controlling climate change and protecting the environment and biodiversity from damaging land use practices which previous technology led changes in farming have produced.

The IAASTD writing teams have tried to reflect the fact that the application of science and technology must take into account the multifunctionality of farming and the need for change to be led by farmers and communities in greatest need, especially women. They should press on with their work. This may not fit the global business plan of the biotechnology companies, such as Monsanto and Syngenta, but if they think biotechnology has a part to play in the future then they would be advised to involve themselves in the up-to-date thinking emerging from the IAASTD process instead of going off in a huff and taking their ball with them.


Calls to Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341065.

Please note GM Freeze’s new land line number 0845 217 8992.


2.See and the attached briefing.

3.Crop Life International wrote to Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director General Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on 26th October “to disassociate itself from this assessment project”.

4. For example the Public Research and Initiative (see

5. See

6. See, page 13.