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Farmer ends hunger strike; protests pro-GMO agenda of FAO meeting

March 4, Guadalajara – Filipino farmer, Isidoro Boy Ancog, ended his hunger strike today after protesting for three days at a meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Ancog, who is one of the few farmers that were able to participate in that meeting, went on a hunger strike last March 2 after intervening in a plenary session of the 10th FAO international technical conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10). Ancog objected to the fact that the Conference appeared to be promoting biotechnology, including the commercial use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as the most viable solution to poverty and hunger in developing countries.

Ancog, an organic farmer from Bohol province, said, “I have observed that small scale men and women farmers and fishers, who form the majority of the poor in this world, are so underrepresented in this room. This is a manifestation of what is happening in our villages —we are targeted, we are not involved in processes. Technologies are so top-down, imposed on us with very little knowledge given, especially on their limitations and effects. I am against GMOs; my province, Bohol, publicly rejects GMOs as a policy; the organizations I represent are fighting against GMOs. Why? Because we firmly believe it is not the solution to poverty and hunger, but rather a cause of more deprivation in the future.”

Ancog’s “intervention” was noted in the Conference Report, which came out today, but the drafters did not acknowledge Ancog’s statements as coming from “farmers’ organizations”—an indication that the Conference did not recognize the contribution of farmers’ groups to decision-making processes.

In fact, the Conference was dominated by pro-GMO delegates, such as from the U.S., Brasil, Argentina, and Mexico, among others. Mexico could not have made the Conference agenda clearer than its announcement at the start of the meeting that it was holding 24 GMO field trials.

Following Ancog’s announcement that he was ending his hunger strike, he addressed the Conference, saying, “Beyond these walls, poverty and hunger still exist. Beyond these walls, peasant farmers, fisherfolks, rural women and indigenous peoples continue to be neglected and ignored in decision making processes and technology development processes. I am calling on delegates and FAO to address this gap. I propose that FAO convenes an international meeting of peasant farmers, fisherfolks, rural women and indigenous peoples to discuss about the results of this conference, but primarily to examine the appropriateness and implications of biotechnology, particularly GMOs in our lives and allow us to decide for ourselves the courses of action to take.”

The Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE), a regional NGO that is working to conserve and develop agricultural biodiversity in Asia, congratulated Ancog for courageously standing up for all farmers who were unable to participate in the Conference.

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