The conference 'Feeding the World' will take place on January 30 in the Amsterdam Hilton hotel. At this controversial event organised by magazine The Economist, Dutch princess Máxima is taking the stage together with pesticide multinational Monsanto. Critics label the event as misleading because it promotes industrial agriculture as the solution to solve world hunger.
The way the conference is organized shows that it mainly aims to promote further intensifying of agriculture, based on higher profits and increased use of fertilizers, energy and pesticides; products that are being produced by Monsanto. These targets are also elaborated on in "The 9 Billion-People Question", an article published by The Economist, which is used as a starting point for the conference (1). The price for a ticket to the conference at 1600 euros ensures an audience of mostly large companies, that will listen to talks of their colleagues from the DSM, BASF, Nestlé and Rabobank. There is not a single farmer programmed as a speaker. (2)
Nina Holland, who is following the lobbying practices of multinationals for Corporate Europe Observatory, is critical regarding the conference: "The meeting at the Hilton is a PR-act for the companies that have more interest in extending their monopoly power over the seed and food market, than to find solutions for hunger in the world. Industrial farming increases the dependence of farmers, and threatens food security by eliminating local food production."
Critics say that there are many better solutions available that can feed the world in a sustainable way, but that these solutions are not mentioned during the conference.
Janneke Bruil of ILEIA, a knowledge center on sustainable agriculture, states: "This conference is missing the point. The solution for world hunger lies with 400 million small scale farmers, and the scientists and consumers that together can make the switch to sustainable, healthy and fair food production. Such a system of production is based on a combination of knowledge and practices of local farmers with new innovations, and will aim to prevent soil degradation, making long lasting cultivation possible, also under extreme weather conditions." (5)
Greet Goverde of Platform ABC says: "The best way to ensure food security is by paying farmers fair prices. Then food can be produced in a sustainable way if that is needed, and people will start investing again in agriculture."
In the report of EEA (the European Environmental Agency) that was released this week, intensive agriculture based on GMO's is being compared to agro-ecological farming methods that are increasingly applied by farmers in the Global South. The report shows that the risks of GMO's are being structurally underestimated, while the benefits are being (6)overestimated.
Princess Máxima is opening the conference at the Hilton. A lot of toxic chemicals are being discharged on the 20 million acres of soy plantations in her homeland Argentina. Because of this the local population suffers from health problems. The 'soy desert' causes deforestation, water contamination, land degradation, land struggles, conflicts and increased poverty. (7) Flip Vonk of ASEED Europe, an environmental organisation in Amsterdam says: "It is just ironic that Princess Máxima volunteers to pimp this conference. Being from Argentina, she knows like no other the damage that companies and Cargill can do to people and to the environment."
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)
Platform Aarde Boer Consument
ILEIA - Centre for learning on sustainable agriculture
Transnational Institute (TNI)
Voor Mondiale Duurzaamheid
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
Burgers voor gentechvrij voedsel Nijmegen
Groene Ruimte maken
Gevoel voor humus
(1) The Nine Billion Question: http://www.saiplatform.org/uploads/Modules/Library/Economist%20Special%2...
(2) Agenda: http://cemea.economistconferences.com/event/feeding-world-2013/ftw-europ...
Participants fee: € 1600.
(3) Speakers: http://cemea.economistconferences.com/event/feeding-world-2013/ftw-europ...
(4) Agriculture responsuble for climate change emissions: http://www.worldwatch.org/files/pdf/Livestock%20and%20Climate%20Change.pdf
(5) It is possible to do it in a different way, for example: http://independentsciencenews.org/un-sustainable-farming/how-millions-of...
(6) EEA report: http://www.eea.europa.eu/pressroom/newsreleases/the-cost-of-ignoring-the
(7) See for example the video Growing Doubt' from Greenpeace about the experiences farmers in the US have with pesticide resistant crops: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNxhw2jiDtA