About Sue Branford
Sue Branford is co-editor of Seeding and manages the publications of the agricultural-diversity NGO, Grain. She reports regularly from Latin America for the BBC and the UK Guardian.
Articles by Sue Branford
It's hard to feel enthusiasm about the prospects for the G20 meeting to be held in London on 2 April 2009, even before the world leaders make their further contribution to global warming by flying into Heathrow airport. That is in part because the summit's three official goals - to "stabilise financial markets", "reform and strengthen the global financial and economic system", and "put the global economy on track for sustainable growth" - seem so wearyingly familiar.
The timing of the United Nations' Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) summit in Rome on 3-5 June 2008 was fortuitous. It had already been scheduled as the latest of the body's regular six-yearly gatherings, but the prominence of food issues on the current global agenda meant that the summit also took on the appearance of an emergency meeting.
The unexpected resignation on 13 May 2008 of Brazil's internationally renowned environment minister, Marina Silva, is a dramatic demonstration of the power of the "developmentalist" faction within the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. It is now likely that the government will move rapidly to build more highways and hydroelectric power stations within the Amazon region, making it easier for agribusiness and mining companies to move in.
“We were sitting chatting outside our home, when two small planes flew over very low. We went down to our fields to see what was happening. My husband said: ‘Look, they’re dropping poison on our land’. It went all over the food crops – the cassava, banana, beans, rice – and the pasture. We lost everything. And the poison went on us too. I had no coat on, so it went all over my arms. It was sticky, just like cooking oil. I washed it off as soon as I could but even so it made my skin itch. For several days we all felt ill. We had fevers and eye infections. My youngest child hasn’t been well since.”
The speaker is Graciela, a 36-year-old peasant woman living in the province of Putumayo in the south of Colombia. For five years, United States aeroplanes have been spraying a powerful chemical defoliant on peasant holdings as part of Plan Colombia, the US-inspired and funded plan to eradicate coca, the raw material from which cocaine is extracted – which, since its implementation in 1999, has cost $1.7 billion and turned Colombia into the third largest recipient of US aid after Israel and Egypt.