The undersigned representatives of peasant and other Civil Society organizations, men and women, express our concern and alarm about the FAO International Symposium on “The Role of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition[1] to be held at FAO headquarters in Rome on 15-17 February 2016.

We are concerned as to why FAO has decided to hold this Symposium, and why now. We remember the disastrous last attempt by FAO to act as an undercover agent for biotechnology companies, by organizing the International Technical Conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2010.[2]

We are alarmed that FAO is once again fronting for the same corporations, just when these companies are talking about further mergers amongst themselves, which would concentrate the commercial seeds sector in even fewer hands. FAO should act as a knowledge center, rather than as a promoter of the ideological approach of the private sector. Unfortunately the program for this symposium is designed to showcase the “benefits” of GMOs, artificial genetic constructs created with possibly even more dangerous technologies, and other biotechnologies held by a handful of TNCs.

Last year FAO hosted an international symposium on agroecology and three regional meetings to discuss with governments and civil society how to move the agroecology agenda forward.[3] Those activities were much closer to the way that FAO should act, as a center for knowledge exchange, without a hidden agenda on behalf of a few. Yet in this case, truly useful peasant-based technologies must take a backseat to those that only serve to advance corporate profits.

It is clear that, through the FAO, industry wants to re-launch their false message that genetically engineered crops can feed the world and cool the planet, while the reality is that nothing has changed on the biotech front. GMOs don’t feed people, they are mostly planted in a handful of countries on industrial plantations for agrofuels and animal feed, they increase pesticide use, and they throw farmers off the land.[4] The industrial food system that it promotes is one of the main drivers of climate change.[5]

If anything, the situation has worsened over the past years:

  • The quality of private sector agricultural research has been declining, even as their expenditures have increased, leading to vulnerability among seed and crop chemical input companies;
  • As a result, mergers and acquisitions are being planned with, and among, the Big Six seed/pesticide corporations that already control 75% of global private sector research and development in agriculture;
  • In desperation the surviving companies are calling for “climate-smart” agriculture, demanding protection from anti-cartel/competition regulators, pushing for more intellectual property rights and for increased public subsidies to allow them to go ahead with their plans.
  • The same corporations are going beyond conventional GMO plant varieties toward “extreme biotech” strategies such as synthetic biology to create new genetic constructs, and trying, once again, to overturn the UN moratorium against Terminator seeds. Not only do they ignore the rights of farmers, they are using biotechnologies to patent plant genes that are already in peasants’ fields and that we have selected ourselves. With collaboration of the Seed Treaty, the so called Divseek program offers totally free access to all the gene sequences of the seeds that we have given free of charge to the gene banks. With the new biotechnologies for editing the genome, international corporations re-compose these genes in order to patent them. They want to forbid us to produce our own seeds and oblige us to buy their patented GMOs every year as well as their toxic pesticides, indispensable to grow those GMOs.
  • In animal husbandry and fisheries where transgenic salmon and pigs already exist, we see the same scenario, the strengthening of industrial production and the increase in the use of antibiotics….

We remember the last time FAO allowed the biotech giants to push them into an international conference, in Guadalajara in 2010, at which the FAO worked hard, as in this case, to limit the involvement and participation of La Vía Campesina and other CSOs, and was publicly condemned for shameless promotion of GMOs by many organizations across the world.[6]

Why does FAO limit itself to corporate biotechnology and deny the existence of peasant technologies? It is time to stop pushing this narrow corporate biotech agenda. The vast majority of the world’s farmers are peasants, and it is peasants who feed the world. We need peasant-based technologies, not corporate biotechnologies.

It is high time that FAO gets its priorities clear. Rather than allowing corporations to push their biotechnology agendas, FAO should forcefully pursue agroecology and food sovereignty as the path to feed the world and cool the planet!


International and Regional Organizations

ActionAid International

African Biodiversity Network (ABN)

Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)

Asian Peasant Coalition (APC)

Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD)

Campaña Mesoamericana para la Justicia Climática


Coordinación Regional del Frente Parlamentario contra el Hambre de América Latina y el Caribe Comité pour l’Annulation de la Dette du Tiers Monde (CADTM International)

Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité (CIDSE)

Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Brussels

ETC Group

Focus on the Global South India, Thailand and Philippines

Friends of the Earth International

Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity


Greenpeace International

Growth Partners Africa –GPA

Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC)

International Indian Treaty Council (IITC)

La Via Campesina Movimiento Agroecológico de América Latina y el Caribe (MAELA)


Pan-Africanist International Pelum Association, Africa

Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD Regional)

Red interamericana de economía solidaria de latinoamérica y el caribe. RIPESS LAC

Red por una América Latina Libre de Transgénicos

Red de Acción en Plaguicidas y sus Alternativas para América Latina (RAPAL)


RIPESS Intercontinental

Slow Food

Society for International Development (SID)

Solidarity Economy Europe

Transnational Institute (TNI)

Urgenci Europe

Urgenci International Network

World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP)

World Public Health Nutrition Association

World Rainforest Movement (WRM)


National and Local Organizations

Acción Ecológica, Ecuador

ADTM International, Belgium

African Center for Biodiversity, South Africa and Tanzania

Agriculture Sovereignty Ghana

AGRECOL, Germany

AIAB, Italy


Alianza por una Mejor Calidad de Vida/Red de Acción en Plaguicidas de Chile, RAPChile

Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)

Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), India


AMAR Environment Defense Association, Brazil

APROMAC Environment Protection Association, Brazil

Articulação de Agroecologia na Bahia- (AABA), Brazil

Articulação Semiárido Brasileiro (ASA), Brazil

Asian Peasant Coalition (APC)

Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD)

Associação Brasileira de Agroecologia (ABA), Brazil

Associação Gaúcha de Proteção ao Ambiente Natural (AGAPAN), Brazil

Associação para o Desenvolvimento da Agroecologia (AOPA), Brazil

Association Citoyenne de Défenses des Intérêts Collectifs (ACDIC), Cameroon

ATTAC Argentina

ATTAC France


Attac Côte d’Ivoire

Australian Food Sovereignty Allianc

BioScience Resource Project, USA

Bread for the World, Germany

CADTM, Maroc

Campaña Yo No Quiero Transgénicos, Chile

Censat Agua Viva – Amigos de la Tierra, Colombia

Center for Research and Documentation Chile-Latin America, Germany

Centre Europe-Tiers Monde (CETIM), Switzerland

Centro de Derechos Humanos “Fray Francisco de Vitoria OP”, A.C., Mexico


Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.” , Ecuador

Centro Ecologico, Brasil

Çiftçi-SEN (Confederation of Farmers’ Unions), Turkey

CSMM, Ecuador

CCFD-Terre Solidaire, France

Coalition for a GM-Free India, India

Coldiretti, Italy

Colectivo Revuelta Verde, Mexico

Colectivo VientoSur, Chile

Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, Ecuador

Community to Community, USA

Comunidades Campesinas y Urbanas Solidarias con Alternativas, México

Conselho Nacional das Populações Extrativistas (CNS), Brazil

Cooperativa por un Ambiente Biodiverso y Sustentable, CAMBIOS, S.C., Mexico

Cooperativa Semilla Austral, Chile

Coordinadora de Movimientos Populares para la Integración Latinoamericana

Coordination Climat Justice Sociale, Switzerland

Earthlife Africa, South Africa

Ecologistas en Acción, Spain

Ekologistak Martxan, Spain

Educación, Cultura y Ecología, A. C. (Educe AC.), Mexico

FASE – Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional, Brazil

Food First, USA

Food Sovereignty Ghana

Foro Ciudadano de Participación por la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos, Argentina

Friends of the Earth U.S.A.

Fronteras Comunes A.C., Mexico

Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho (FESPAD), El Salvador

Fundación Mundubat, Basque Country

GE Free New Zealand

Générations Futures, France

Global Justice Alliance, USA

Grupo Coletivo Triunfo de Agricultores Familiares, Brazil

Grupo de Agroecología y Soberanía Alimentaria (GASA), Panama

Grupo de Coordinación Ampliado del Grupo Carta de Belém, Brazil


Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, USA

Institute for Research and Promotion of alternatives in development (IRPAD), Mali

Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas del Tercer Mundo, Ecuador

Jubileu Sul, Brasil

Kenya Biodiversity Coalition

Kenya Food Rights Alliance – KeFRA

Kenya Food Rights Alliance –KeFRA

La Asamblea Veracruzana de Iniciativas y Defensa Ambiental (LAVIDA)

Laboratorio de Investigación en Desarrollo Comunitario y Sustentabilidad, Mexico

La Fédération Unie de Groupements d’Eleveurs et d’Agriculteurs (FUGEA), Belgium

Living Farms, India

Marcha Mundial de las Mujeres, Chile

MASIPAG, Philippines

Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica (MNFM), El Salvador

Mesa Permanente por la Justicia Laboral (MPJL), El Salvador

Millennium Institute, USA

Mouvement “Nous Sommes la Solution”, Senegal

Mouvement d’Action Paysanne (MAP), Belgium

Movement Generation, USA

Movimiento de los Pequenos Agricultores-MPA, Brazil

Movimiento Nacional en Defensa de la Tierra (MOVITIERRA), El Salvador

Navdanya, India

Never Ending Food, Malawi

Organic Systems, New Zealand

Other Worlds, USA

PACS – Institute Alternative Policies for the Southern Cone of Latin America, Brazil

PAPDA, Haïti

Peuples Solidaires-ActionAid, France

PLATAFORMA DE ECONOMÍA SOLIDARIA (PECOSOL), Guatemala rede de Comunidades Tradicionais Pantaneira, Brazil

Rede Ecovida de Agroecologia, Brazil

Red de Accion por los Derechos Ambientales (RADA), Temuko,Chile.


Red de Semillas Libres de Chile


Red Mexicana de Acción Ecológica y Pacifista [Red ECOPAZ]

RELUFA (Network for the Fight Against Hunger), Cameroon

Save Our Seeds, Germany

Semillas de Vida, Mexico

Serviço de assessoria a organizações populares rurais (SASOP), Brazil

Solidaridad Suecia – América Latina, Sweden

South Durban Community environmental Alliance, South Africa

Sri Lanka Nature Group

Sunray Harvesters, India

Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT)

Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity (TABIO), Tanzania

Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement (TOAM), Tanzania

Tarım Orkam-Sen, Turkey

Terra de Direitos, Brazil

Terra Nuova, Italy

The Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity Conservation

TOXISPHERA Environmental Health Association, Brazil

Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE), South Africa

Unidad de la Fuerza Indígena y Campesina (UFIC), México

Unidad Ecológica Salvadoreña (UNES), El Salvador

Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), Palestine

US Food Sovereignty Alliance, USA USC CANADA

Vía Orgánica, Mexico

War on Want, UK

WhyHunger, USA