White Paper – Technology Access:  Discussions Set Path for Advancing Farmer Interests
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5
×
 

White Paper – Technology Access: Discussions Set Path for Advancing Farmer Interests

on

  • 2,313 views

Global Farmer Roundtable 2008: Farmers Find Networking

Global Farmer Roundtable 2008: Farmers Find Networking

Statistics

Views

Total Views
2,313
Views on SlideShare
2,302
Embed Views
11

Actions

Likes
0
Downloads
20
Comments
0

2 Embeds 11

http://www.truthabouttrade.org 10
http://truthabouttrade.org 1

Accessibility

Categories

Upload Details

Uploaded via as Microsoft Word

Usage Rights

© All Rights Reserved

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Processing…
Post Comment
Edit your comment

White Paper – Technology Access:  Discussions Set Path for Advancing Farmer Interests White Paper – Technology Access: Discussions Set Path for Advancing Farmer Interests Document Transcript

  • Technology Access: Discussions Set Path for Advancing Farmer Interests A White Paper on the 3rd Annual Global Farmer Roundtable-2008 Hosted by Truth About Trade and Technology Authors: Reg Clause and Dal Grooms December 2008
  • Technology Access: Discussions Set Path for Advancing Farmer Interests Global Farmer Roundtable 2008: Farmers Find Networking Executive Summary There are many ideas and issues that will be discussed if you put 20 farmers from around the world into one room. But there are three common themes that came up in October 2008 at a Global Farmer Roundtable held in Des Moines, Iowa, USA. The Roundtable was sponsored by Truth About Trade and Technology, a nonprofit group promoting free trade and agricultural biotechnology through farmer- led efforts. The farmers, who came from 19 countries located on six continents, consistently spoke of ideas that came under three themes. 1. The farmers highly value the opportunity to share their ideas and experiences with other farmers. Through face-to- face contact and conversation they establish trust and respect, and seek counsel from those like-minded farmers who face similar challenges in production agriculture and trade issues. Although their production methods, crops and farm sizes can vary greatly, they find commonalities in their efforts to a) increase their production in a sustainable way, b) find access to a marketplace that will reward them, and c) earn respect from non-farmers for their knowledge and work. 2. The farmers identify that biotechnology access is one of the top technology assets that can increase their countries’ agricultural productivity while providing other desirable benefits. Biotechnology may not be the top technology priority identified by each farmer from the participating countries, but it was always named as one of the top three technology issues that could aid farmers. That opinion is shared by farmers in both developed and developing countries, and across all ranges of farm operations and crops. Over and over, the farmers noted that higher productive output from existing resources and inputs is biotechnology’s promise. A promise that has proven to be true. i
  • Production yields are not the only consideration these farmers have when speaking of productivity. They also consider economic and natural resource sustainability. Those issues include reduced costs for pest control, respectable yield capabilities under production stresses caused by weather and pests, and limited use of chemical exposure to the environment. Many farmers also point to biotechnology as an innovation that has opened up local economic opportunity for young people. The technology has increased the economic return on farming, and that has been a factor for people staying on the land rather than moving to the city for jobs. Local profitable business opportunities have shown time and again to strengthen communities and families. 3. The farmers feel their expertise and knowledge about the science of production agriculture is not respected. Scientifically unsubstantiated claims that prey upon people’s fears have led to rules and regulations that impact the productivity of farmers, their economic viability, and their ability to attract younger generations to farming. Such outcomes can depict farmers as poor or uneducated business operators. This puts farmers at a great disadvantage when political decisions are being made about their businesses. Farmers are well aware of the large funding and communications networks available to the worldwide organizations which oppose biotechnology. As individuals, they feel unable to compete in the world of ideas. However, as they meet like-minded farmers from other parts of the globe who can share their strategies and experiences in changing political opinion, the farmers feel hopeful, proud and empowered to enter that arena. The white paper that follows gives specific examples of these themes. This was the third year that the Roundtable was held in the U.S., and the themes noted in this Executive Summary have been repeated each year. The farmers that leave the meetings are excited about creating opportunities to improve agriculture’s part in creating secure food systems in sustainable environments. However, much work needs to be done to create more depth in their local and country-wide networks ii
  • and develop capacity to act. Truth About Trade & Technology is asking for support to deliver that outcome through the five points that follow. Strategic Action Needed • Cross-pollinate technology information across the globe with farmer-to-farmer efforts. Information should focus on ways to increase yields and profitability, while keeping environmental stewardship in the forefront. • Establish a global communications network that provides moral support and advice as farmers tackle efforts that would block their access to technology. • Change the political climate for technology use by farmers. • Find solutions to the barriers that keep science researchers from sharing positive news about technology developments as it applies to crop production. • Replicate Roundtable events in other areas of the world to further identify committed farmers interested in implementing these strategies. iii
  • Technology Access: Discussions Set Path for Advancing Farmer Interests Global Farmer Roundtable 2008: Farmers Find Networking It was easier to enumerate the differences than the similarities of the 20 farmers who gathered at a global roundtable in Des Moines, Iowa, USA in October 2008. But as they shared those differences … cultures, crops, farm size, growing conditions and native languages … they recognized their similarities … passion for production and an understanding that non-scientific policies are limiting each in their endeavors. They agreed to come to the two days of the Global Farmer-to-Farmer Roundtable hosted by Truth about Trade and Technology to share their stories. But as they heard their own voices in the context of how progress for production agriculture starts in one field, in one province, or in one state, they began to recognize that they are the leaders who can bring change locally. As the attendee from Australia observed, “My story has more relevance than I thought.” Opportunities for the farmers to practice their leadership at a global level and see the strength of their network were immediately available since the Roundtable coincided with the Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium of the World Food Prize. Roundtable participants were positioned to be part of panel presentations, as well as ask questions from the farmer’s point-of-view to renowned international researchers and policymakers. The Roundtable attendees were invited to the United States because others had recognized their leadership talents. For most, though, they had never ventured down a path where they had to use that skill on the world stage. Their experiences in Des Moines have now moved many of these farmers to begin taking action to tackle policy issues that hold farmer productivity back. Roundtable Participants Roundtable participants came from very different backgrounds (six continents are represented) and represented a range of farm production and size. (Appendix A includes a world map of their locations plus brief descriptions of the farming operations.) The group produces 30 different crops and raises a variety of livestock. Their 4
  • farm operations range from very small amounts of farmland (7.5 hectares or Ha.) to extremely large (25,000 Ha). Demographically, the group included 3 women and 17 men. The age of participants ranged from 24 years to mid/late 60s. Average age was 45. This is younger than the average age of farmers in developed countries (reported to be 55-57 years). They were invited to participate in the Roundtable based on 1) their propensity to engage in technology; 2) a demonstration of leadership; and 3) their activity in local networks. Members of the group have also received education beyond the secondary level. Such a group might be expected to embrace change and express progressive attitudes toward agronomic practices. Methodology This document will review results from discussions at the two roundtable sessions as well as individual surveys completed by participants near the end of their stay. Discussions during the Global Farmer Roundtable were led by highly qualified facilitators with experience not only in academic and institutional work, but who also had practical on-the-ground experiences in agriculture. The primary facilitator was Dr. Robert Thompson, who is currently the Gardner Endowed Chair in Agricultural Policy, University of Illinois--Urbana/Champaign. (More about Dr. Thompson and guest facilitator Dr. Pedro Sanchez are included in another section of this paper.) The facilitators ensured participation by all roundtable members, and kept discussions focused. General themes used to introduce discussion topics were: Choices in using Technology; Access to Technology; and Global Farmer Networks. Although the compiled results of the discussion and survey are summarized in this paper (Appendix B is a compilation of survey responses), they should not be interpreted as statistically derived. However, these are candid responses to specific discussion questions. As such, the responses are representative of the population recruited. Descriptors are used purposefully within the narrative to better define 5
  • the person quoted or paraphrased. (The participants had no expectation of anonymity.) Data capture was accomplished with audio recording, two on-site recorders and a survey. Economic Context Any paper written about agriculture is a more complete picture when we know the economic context of the time. Global economic circumstances in 2008 can be modestly described as fluid. Shifting trends in ag inputs and commodity prices became widely apparent in the months leading up to the Roundtable, mostly as a result of the development of biofuels. Growing demand for biofuels in this decade changed equations in the supply and demand of feed grains and oilseeds. Land use decisions were shifting worldwide, and that affected capital flows. Food oils from rape, canola, palm and corn were being directed more heavily to biofuels. The fuel use demand was entirely new and drawing on relatively static supplies of vegetable oil feedstocks. Immediate results were felt across the globe since demand for cooking oil now competed with demand for biofuels. The price shock was manifested in processed foods. If this had been a single commodity problem, perhaps farming decisions would shift and supplies would have adjusted. But that was not the case. For one example, the price of corn went from $70US per ton in October 2006 to $260 per ton in July 2008. The price changes were so dramatic and sudden that nearly all media outlets ran stories on the subject of food supplies and cost. This media play was part of a growing global debate which attempted to sort out the growing concern about global agriculture’s ability to supply many growing market needs. By October 2008, when the Global Farmer Roundtable convened, the markets had backed down to merely high levels, but the concern for global supplies remained strident. What may have been overlooked amid the growing concern for food supplies was that the price itself was a manifestation of considerable speculative price inflation of all commodities, chiefly crude oil. By late summer of 2008, air was 6
  • leaving the price inflation bubble in all commodities at a very rapid rate. But again, the momentum of concern for supplies remained substantial and palpable within the discussions at the Global Farmer Roundtable and the Borlaug Symposium. Food vs. Fuel was a real issue in the public debate. The capacity to supply global demand for food and feedstocks was clearly in doubt. It would be only weeks later that the global economic crisis would become very public and all segments of demand would start to contract. Establishing a Framework As mentioned earlier, facilitators who led discussions during the two days the farmers met were well-qualified through their abilities to apply on-the-ground practices even though they were well-recognized for their academic and institutional work. Their experiences led to three discussion areas: Choices in using Technology; Access to Technology; and Global Farmer Networks. Dr. Robert Thompson is acutely aware of ag policy, having worked on a U.S. farm bill and General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade (GATT) negotiations. He then saw the direct result of that policy on global agriculture when he served as President and CEO of Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development. That’s a non- profit which conducts projects in 40 countries. Its work focuses on reducing poverty and hunger by increasing local ag production. This is done with a keen eye to environmental protection. Following that, he spent nearly 5 years at the World Bank, where he was the Director of Rural Development and Senior Advisor for Ag Trade Policy. Thompson offered some background and provocative statements to engage Roundtable participants. He pointed out the likely need for combining genetic modification with classical breeding. If trends continue, by 2050 there will be 9 billion people and world food demand will double since there is growing affluence in some of the most populous countries in the world. Population growth will account for 50% of increased demand, while higher purchasing power accounts for the rest. Should biofuels use continue to grow, Dr. Thompson said, there will be additional demands on resources. 7
  • He said his experience at the World Bank showed him that those opposed to scientifically developed farming inputs are a serious constraint to the use of biotechnology and even fertilizer. Another constraint he identified was water. With substantial amounts of land still available worldwide for farm production, land in itself is not a limitation. His solution for doubling production and dealing with water issues was using a combination of classical plant breeding and modern biology, plus research. The development of drought-resistance in crops, combined with proven agronomic practices, and converting some of the available land areas to production may address both food and fuel demands. The roundtable was also favored with secondary facilitation provided by 2002 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Pedro Sanchez. His schedule allowed him to meet with the group for 90 minutes. Dr. Sanchez is a noted agronomist and soil scientist for his work to restore fertility to some of the world’s poorest and most degraded soils. His initial work in Peru and Brazil developed non-productive lands into fields that impact the world markets. Dr. Sanchez then expanded his work to agroforestry, which integrates crop and tree cultivation. This work took him to Kenya, where he was Director-General of the International Center for Research in Agroforestry. There, he showed that native rock phosphate combined with nitrogen-fixing trees and bushes could bring low-cost and comprehensive soil rejuvenation to eastern and southern Africa. Farmers who use these methods increase yields by as much as 400% and fare better in drought years since organic matter is built up in the soils. In all cases, as Dr. Sanchez gave hope to those farming marginal lands, he also worked to preserve delicate ecosystems. Dr. Sanchez talked of success in Malawi where the government created a program to directly subsidize farmers for the costs of fertilizer and improved hybrid seeds. The results were staggering. Malawi went from a 44% deficit in production to a 19% surplus in one year. The following year saw a 30% increase, and 2008 will show a 50% increase. “Put the money directly into the farmers’ hands in the form of improved seed and fertilizer just as Malawi did, and not to food aid. Look at small irrigation projects that farmers can build, not huge dams,” he said. 8
  • Framework Discussions The remainder of this paper will reveal the discussions by the Roundtable participants that led them to recognize their bonds with farmers worldwide, and that those bonds could strengthen their efforts to improve production not only on their own land, but on the farms of their neighbors and countrymen. Choices in Using Technology Initial facilitated conversations focused on food security. The participant from Argentina pointed out that discussions often point to land and water as the two physical constraints on production. “Perhaps we have overlooked a third,” he said, pointing to energy. “Food production necessarily consumes energy in the course of all activities. One solution for creating greater energy efficiency is to get more annual production from the same land and the same energy inputs. Higher productive output from existing resources and inputs is often the result of biotechnology use, said Roundtable participants who talked about their experiences. They had production increases of 13-30% for corn when using GM (genetically modified) seeds, 14-26% increases for soya, a 30% increase for wheat (which is not GM) when grown in rotation with GM crops, and a 50% increase in canola production. (See Appendix B.) Productivity growth through adoption of technology was uniformly supported around the table. Significant frustration was expressed repeatedly from the group that the anti-technology forces were interfering with technology adoption at a time when the need for production clearly exists and demand is continually growing. The participant from Ireland said that “It is politics, even more than government” that constrains biotechnology adoption, especially in Africa. His view is that Europe’s environmental movement is hindering Africa. For example, European ministers have largely been against biotechnology on the continent. This position then leads to African governments refusing technology solutions for fear of losing the near- by European export market, he said. The young woman farmer from Canada said she was quite concerned that education in the public sector was lacking in regards to biotechnology. Her view was that much of North America and certain other developed countries have no perspective on starvation. This has 9
  • led to a poorly balanced public debate on biotech. She sees too much government meddling in this matter and believes technology will be the answer to uplifting disadvantaged populations around the globe. “Let the market decide,” she said. “But we need good market signals” which are not influenced by naysayers trying to determine others’ fates. The Uganda farmer pointed out the lack of information and understanding that is affecting choice in his country. “Farmers are traditionally saving their own seed. They need to be shown the benefits of hybrid seed.” The Irish farmer noted another twist that must be addressed through farmer education. Many of his compatriots, he pointed out, are afraid of high yields and the possibility of low prices. Initially this was a concern among the U.S. farmers; said a farmer from that country. However, the adoption of biotechnology in the U.S. is very high now, which suggests the positive agronomic outcomes from the technology have long overcome latent concerns for market price. The Czech farmer said his colleagues in Eastern Europe are well aware of biotechnology and its benefits, but now they can’t use it since their countries joined the EU. The irony, he offered, is that farmers in the EU are not well admired in their respective countries because of all the subsidies. “Biotechnology,” he noted, “will reduce the need for subsidies.” Regulation and Public Trust The farmer from Canada brought home an important point on the regulatory front. She said, “Canada has lost regulatory trust.” This was an important comment since it is also appears to be the case in the EU. Several EU farmers at the Roundtable felt EU ministers are now showing a belated understanding that blocking new technology such as biotech has led to the EU becoming far less competitive in agricultural trade. The bigger problem now, they said, is the pervasive misunderstanding that was created in the consumer public. Biotech has been portrayed as a risky food safety problem for so long that it is difficult to communicate new facts. As the Italian said, “many people speak about agriculture whether they know anything about it or not. And this is a big problem to communicate the positives happening in food safety because of 10
  • technology.” He is quite frustrated that consumers seem to equate GM with other food safety concerns. The Irish farmer pointed out that EU studies continue to show there are no health or environmental negatives with GM, so the evidence to support farmers is building up. The problem, in his view, is a lack of political leadership. The activist pressure has forced the issue one way politically and the evidence is demanding a review and reversal. However, he said, “academia is silent and great recent research out of the University of Milan is being suppressed.” The American farmer stated, “Science needs to step off the curb and declare itself; instead of all these ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’.” This farmer was frustrated that he doesn’t hear more forceful declaration of what the research is showing. This has left consumers and politicians to assume the preponderance of evidence is somehow still suspect. Lack of leadership has weakened regulatory agencies in the debate. Once doubt about the safety of biotechnology was embedded in the consumers’ view, the attempt to prove food safety has become an even bigger challenge. That, stated the Canadian farmer, is what has happened in her county. The Canadian Wheat Board (a quasi governmental agency) is blocking access to biotech wheat as a response to the retail and export market, rather than acting on the scientific stance which supports the use and benefits of biotechnology. Are There Advantages to Biotech? The motivations of the responding farmers for wanting to use GM seed is that it would clearly increase their yields while cutting their inputs, thereby making or at least keeping them competitive in the marketplace. The surveys filled out by Roundtable participants included a question about yield results. Answers varied from no significant difference in yield to 40% increases, with most seeing significant yield results. The American farmer from North Dakota was realizing a 30% increase in corn yields in an area well outside the U.S. Cornbelt. Bean yields were up 14% and even the non-biotech wheat showed 20% to 30% increases when rotated with the GM crops. 11
  • The farmer from the Czech Republic stated his corn silage yields increased from 25 tons per Ha. to 35 tons. This is a dramatic increase in biomass. The woman from Colombia had seen 12% yield increases in corn. The Romanian farmer had seen 33%. In the two days of the round table there was no negative discussion regarding yields. Quality improvements were also mentioned as well as the obvious improvements to management of weeds and pests. In the discussions, it was pointed out several times that farmers could use far fewer chemicals with biotech seeds and achieve superior results than sticking with traditional hybrid seed. In biotech cotton and corn, the chemical use reduction is dramatic. All the farmers at the Roundtable believed this was important even if yields hadn’t been higher. Cotton farmers have seen the reduction in spraying the most dramatically. That, plus huge yield increases have driven adoption of Bt cotton in India. Keep in mind that these participants were all farmers. Thus the discussion did not focus on consumer/end user markets. Many participants mentioned the need for consumer traits, but their main competence and interests were clearly in the agronomic areas. Even so, these farmers consistently expressed concern for reducing environmental impacts while increasing yields. They also understood the importance of reducing energy inputs relative to production outputs. Improving energy use, water use and environmental impacts are among the consumer/societal benefits that these farmers are striving to generate through their choices in technology adoption. Access to Technology While some farmers may have their choice to use technology limited by political issues, in other cases, the option is limited by other barriers. Dr. Thompson pointed out that Africa has great capacity to be self-sustaining once certain barriers are overcome. The African participants gave a hearty ‘thumbs-up’ to that statement. As an illustration of this possibility, the African continent currently has the same acres in maize production as the U.S., but its maize yield is only 10% of U.S. production. Even with a land advantage, the participant from Kenya expressed concern for the loss of prime ag land to roads and houses. While the loss of production may look minimal today, he pointed out that the 12
  • world will be greatly affected in the long-term as African farmers prove their potential. “Let the African farmer grow enough,” he said. “Technology transfer and lack of information are the problem.” He felt that more African farmer input was needed to help direct research. He says the time is right because more people are choosing to move back to the villages. They see opportunity. His priorities for access were, “Expertise, GM technology and water.” These will have the highest impact on yields, he said. He offered very practical suggestions such as focusing GM research on land already in production. His suggestions not tied to agronomics were to plan programs for periods longer than one year at a time, and to direct more education to girls. Access to technology can also be thwarted by lack of profit. The Portugal representative was adamant that in order to be profitable, she needs access to all the technical tools from precision farming to GM seeds. Echoing the profit theme were the farmers from Romania, Czech Republic and Hungary. Each in turn emphasized the need for information and technology in many forms. But, as the Romanian stated, “with little money you get small results.” The Mexico farmer entered the discussion saying that, “biotechnology is a good opportunity” for his country. But Mexico must figure out how to get water to the crop. He stated, “At this time the U.S. produces corn more cheaply, but that is because of productivity.” He felt this could change if Mexican farmers were able to take advantage of technical improvements such as drought-tolerant and nitrogen-fixing corn. Other possibilities of biotechnology development were brought up in the discussion. For example, the Australian farmer hoped for frost tolerant wheat to be developed through GM. He stated that only a two-degree Celsius improvement in frost tolerance could allow for earlier planting dates to help that crop avoid heat stress at head filling. He felt they could double yields on average with this one trait. Drought tolerance as a GM trait was the most referenced new trait on the surveys. During the discussion, Dr. Thompson told the group that agriculture uses 70% of the world’s annual fresh water supply. 13
  • Pressures have already come to bear on where crops will be grown and who will get the water. Scale Neutral Technology A key finding to emerge around access was the notion that GM is a “scale neutral technology.” This group was highly diverse in the size of farm operations, yet producers rated GM as the technology that provided the best return for a farmer’s investment. The India participant noted that even small farmers can see a large enough improvement in yields that they don’t look for off-farm jobs. “Because of the scale neutrality of BT cotton, the acceptance there has been huge. It is keeping young people on the farm instead of going to the factory. This is a big shift.” Availability and Price While access was discussed largely in a political/policy realm, there are other issues as well. The question of price of biotech seeds was explored in the survey. Within this small group, the results showed six saying price is a constraint; and nine saying price was not a constraint and the other three not applicable. Of interest within this sample were the African participants. One suggested that price was not a strong issue and the other said it was, but qualified this by saying the lack of availability of seed was more important as an access constraint. Seed availability is a problem in India according to the farmer participant. The Honduran farmer was concerned that adapted varieties were not yet available to them. The price of the technology is not a key issue for farmers in developed countries, but they do watch the costs so they don’t exceed benefits. Germany, for example, was represented by a young farmer near Brandenburg. His entire crop goes to a biomass energy process on his farm and he is allowed to use specific ‘Bt’ varieties. Without these varieties, he stated his production would be 30% to 40% less due to corn borers. Even so, he was sensitive to the higher costs of using biotech seeds. In a sidebar conversation this farmer stated that some producers in Germany don’t have the corn borer so he feels at some disadvantage. This made cost an issue for him. The American farmer also noted that price was getting so high that he detects some resistance from farmers is surfacing. 14
  • Spain has severe corn borer problems in some regions, but the farmer from Spain did not see price as a problem since farmers were using Bt only where needed. Clearly these farmers knew that all technology was important to farming. Other types of technology that rated highly were mechanization, irrigation, and information technology. These individuals are looking at a comprehensive picture as they make their individual strategic decisions. When asked on the survey which technology gives the best return for the money, GM seed ranked highest among a competitive group of choices. But it was not the highest choice for all farmers. In some cases, the first technology they would seek is better fertilization. Other farmers see irrigation as the breakthrough technology. In this case, built-in drought tolerance would elevate biotech seeds in the ranking given by the farmers. Still others view mechanization and information technology as very important. Global Farmer Networks. As discussion on technology access concluded, Dr. Thompson again challenged the group with the proposition that food supply needs would double in coming years. The discussion again acknowledged production demand pressures for biofuels as a part of the challenge equation. So the question was posed, “What are the things you need to get access to technology?” The immediate response from the Argentine participant was, “Technology freedom needs communication. There needs to be a global openness of communication.” He went on to call for a global network to stimulate this communication. He has seen a trend of young people coming back to the farm, especially in the past two years. His idea was, “We must create communication to stimulate young farmers to push the politicians.” Facilitator Thompson pointed out that anti-technology groups seem masterful in use of the Internet. His question was, “What does it take to reach communication parity?” Response from the Irish participant was budget. “The Friends of the Earth budget in the UK alone is 24 million pounds sterling.” (This is approximately $35 million U.S.) The group acknowledged that the money advantage is symptomatic of the communication advantage. 15
  • The woman farmer from Portugal made a strong statement for a global network to help other farmers make informed choices and step up a drum beat against the European media’s stranglehold on public opinion about biotechnology. Her view is that “Farmers trust farmers. We experience the same experiences. We need to say we are together on this.” Her discussion input had shown she strongly supports various technologies including precision agriculture, but this quote clearly targeted biotechnology. The U.S. farmer suggested using the high credibility of farmers as a way to offset dollars spent on messaging. This comment was countered by the European farmers and the farmer from Kenya who said that in their regions the farmer’s credibility was not good at all. This exchange seemed to underline the need for broader cooperation in communication modes, methods and information. The Australian farmer pointed out how fragile the grower/commodity associations can be in pushing communications agendas. Their funding supports structure and policy development, but makes them poor vehicles for a global network concerned with access and choice. The Australian participant had been particularly active and successful in pushing back pressure led by an EU group to ban all agricultural biotechnology in his country. He pointed out that the success was due to a committed group of farmers that countered anti-GM rhetoric with their own messages. Initially, the anti-technology groups had been winning the day. He stated, “Until the farmers stepped up, the ministers had no reason to go against the prevailing pressure.” Once a strong push was created in favor of access to technology, the Australian lawmakers were able to weigh a proper decision that utilized science, market demand and empirical evidence. Again, the discussion buoyed the concept of a global farmer network supporting efforts to open up access to technology. As the conversation developed it seemed evident to all that farmers are truly in a global market environment. Freedom of choice and access are being constrained by extraordinary political forces. The Italian farmer pointed out in his country and indeed in the EU that it is the consumer advocacy groups that have persuaded the consumer to believe untruths about these technologies. Since farmers failed to step up, the debate was one-sided. He had been to parliament and was informed by a minister that he was the first actual farmer to lobby 16
  • for technology in the three years this minister had been on the job. The clear point being made was that farmers were not telling their story. Many agreed that while the anti-tech groups can muster fifty thousand emails in an instant, farmers are often not organized to balance the debate. Conclusions The discussion held by the farmers at the Global Roundtable led them to some very clear points. The identified communications and politics as key leverage points where they can make a difference when they work together. They also recognized that farmers are not globally respected. While the perception of farmers is high in some countries; in others, farmers are not in a respected occupation. Public trust in science has been “grayed” by the mixed messages delivered by farmers and anti-technology interests. The scientific community must speak up clearly and consistently about their findings regarding technology and agriculture. No group is well-served when political interest squash information. Strategic Action Needed • Cross-pollinate technology information across the globe with farmer-to-farmer efforts. Information should focus on ways to increase yields and profitability, while keeping environmental stewardship in the forefront. • Establish a global communications network that provides moral support and advice as farmers tackle efforts that would block their access to technology. • Change the political climate for technology use by farmers. • Find solutions to the barriers that keep science researchers from sharing positive news about technology developments as it applies to crop production. • Replicate Roundtable events in other areas of the world to further develop plans for implementing strategies. 17
  • Appendix A 2008 Truth About Trade & Technology Global Farmer Roundtable Participants Country Name Farm Operation – Crops only Age Enrique 80 Ha Argentina 56 Duhau Corn Soybeans Sunflower Wheat Jeff 5000 ha Australia Bidstrup Cotton Wheat Sorghum Chickpeas Sergio Luis 25,000 Ha Brazil Bortolozzo Soybeans Corn Sugarcane Eucalyptus Cherilyn 3,340 Ha Canada Jolly-Nagel Wheat Canola Angela 200 Ha Maria Colombia 44 Cabal White Corn Barona 7,918 Ha (Farm Cooperative) Czech Stepan Maize Winter Malting Winter Sugar 30 Republic Cizek Rape for Sunflowers Mustard Wheat Barley Barley Beets Silage Oliver 500 Ha Germany 40 Ransmann Maize Rye Roger 125 Ha Edgardo Honduras 61 Padilla Sorghum Corn Ramirez Csaba 25,000 Ha Hungary 24 Machaty Corn Wheat Sunflower Soyabean Rape Mekala 11 Ha India Velangan 38 Reddy Cotton Chilies Maize Paddy 18
  • Jim 729 Ha Ireland McCarthy Wheat Barley Rape Giuseppe 600 Ha Italy 44 Elias Corn Wheat 7.5 Ha Alfred Kenya Short Season 51 Nderitu Banana Basmati Rice Mango Horticultural corps Ruben Mexico 47 Chavez Maria 500 Ha Portugal Gabriela Durum Cruz Maize Soft Wheat Barley Green Peas Wheat Velentin 450 Ha Romania Petrosu Vegetable Seed and Grain Seed Production Jose‛ Luis 400 Ha Spain Romeo 44 Martin‛ Sorghum Sunflowers Wheat Barley Alfalfa Peas Soybeans Corn Bruno 162 Ha Uganda Bakasembe 65 Matovu Maize United Al Skogen Wheat Soybeans Corn States United 1,822 Ha Bill Horan States Corn Soybeans 19
  • Appendix B Survey Results of Roundtable Participants Decrease Be Improved inputs, economically pest/weed chemical competitive control exposure Main reason to use GM crops 19 11 3 Types of GM crops currently grown Corn Soybeans Cotton Canola Bananas Number of growers 9 4 3 2 1 Sugar Cane, Eucalyptus, Alfalfa, Lentils, Rye, Canola, Nitrogen- Which GM crops would you like Drought enhanced, Any-all to grow? Corn Wheat tolerant Soybeans Rice Cotton Sorghum are now banned Above choices were named once each in the Number of growers 7 5 4 3 3 2 2 returned surveys GM seed Not not allowed by Cost of seed available govt Reasons not growing those crops now? 0 10 12 20
  • Corn SB Cotton Wheat Canola 30% 13% - 2 when 20% - 2 14% - 1 grown in 30% - 4 20% - 1 38% -1 50% - 1 rotation (Silage) 26% - 1 with GM 40%- 1 Yield advantage of GM crops - 1 Yes No Are farmers discouraged from using GM seed because of cost? 6 9 Other Mech. Crop GM seed Irrigation Info Tech GPS (sample Equip Inputs analysis) Which technology gives you the best return for your dollar? (A 2.05 2.33 2.33 2.44 2.5 2.55 2.94 score of 1 would indicate all responses rated the technology highest.) 21
  • 2008 TATT Global Farmer to Farmer Roundtable Participants representing 19 Countries and 6 Continents 22