Mediastunt at UN Convention
Last week it became clear that Syngenta AG has been rewarded with the same observer status as the Civil Society Organizations. Syngenta is one of the three largest multinational agri-business companies in the world. In the beginning they were mainly occupied with chemical pesticides that caused much damage to the environment, including Paraquat, Atrazine, neonicotinoid and DDT.
Today they are also working with genetically modified crops in patented seeds, making small and large scale farmers dependent on them because it is expensive to keep buying seeds every year. And these contracts are often flock contracts: the seeds come with pesticides (Syngenta, Bayer and other agribusiness). In 2011 Syngenta made about $ 13.26 billion in revenue per year. Furthermore they are not afraid to use shady practices such as ‘buying scientific’ research’ and the use of private investigators against policy makers who don’t agree with them. (See: http://www.panna.org/blog/syngentas-corporate-bullying-revealed)
In my eyes Syngenta is not in the position to have influence on a UN treaty that is about improving the living conditions and environment of poor farmers in dry areas (Africa, the Middle East, Iran, large part of India , etc.) Fortunately, more people agreed with me so we wrote a diplomatic activist statement in which we argue that agri-businesses should not participate at this UN Conference.
Last Thursday I held my maiden speech in the plenary hall, with a plea that there should be additional criteria (in addition to the UN Global Compact criteria) to allow companies in the UN conferences. It was very exciting, my face on three big screens in a room as big as a football field.
And then it was Friday, the day of our media stunt. Unlike the conferences of the UNFCCC and CBD, during the UNCCD conferences a media stunt has never been organized. Thursday night we received official UN clearance. And then you have to stick to your protocol (so you shouldn’t shout out slogans or harass members) because otherwise you will lose your entry card and you’ll become a persona non grata.
On Friday we were standing with our paper signs on the square where all delegates walk past to go to the plenary hall. Our signs said: “why welcome the drivers of land degradation to the UNCCD? Say no to agribusiness!”
The media stunt was well received, but because many countries are not likely to spend a lot of money on the decisions made in the UNCCD, there is not enough money for implementation. Countries take a hopeful look at the private sector, in which Syngenta took some very clever steps. There are far-reaching plans to set up a fellowship program for research on land degradation. Syngenta, that promised a large financial donation, made a proposal for a name: the UNCCD Syngenta soil Academy.