Food sovereignty alliance from Latin America, Africa, and Asia approaches seven UN Special Rapporteurs for urgent intervention to block cultivation and trade of GM wheat HB4

To date over 100 organisations endorse this submission. Please note the deadline for endorsements is Wednesday 15 February.


On 26 January 2024, a submission was made in English1, Spanish2, and Portuguese3 to seven United Nations Special Rapporteurs4 dealing with human rights, the environment, food, toxic chemicals, water and sanitation, poverty, indigenous peoples, and health by a Global South collective of food sovereignty activists, social movements of peasants and indigenous peoples, and academics from Latin America, Africa, and Asia.5

This collective is requesting urgent intervention by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs regarding genetically modified (GM) wheat HB4, developed by the Argentinian company Bioceres and purported to be drought-tolerant, and the agrotoxin glufosinate-ammonium. This follows the approval in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay of the commercial production of this GM wheat variety and in South Africa, Colombia, Nigeria, New Zealand, and Indonesia, since 2020, of the importation of GM wheat, suggesting a widespread failure in biosafety governance across the globe. Based on the detailed concerns raised in our joint submission, we:

  1. Urge the governments of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay to suspend/revoke all authorizations for the commercial growing of GM HB4 wheat.
  2. Recommend the government of Paraguay revokes Resolution No. 556/2023 – through which transgenic HB4 wheat was approved – and reforms the genetically modified organism (GMO) regulatory framework, by way of an open, transparent participatory process, with particular emphasis on the need to protect the rights of indigenous people and peasant communities.
  3. Recommend the government of Argentina repeals Resolution 27/2022, which is based only on documentary information from Bioceres, the developer of the GM wheat variety, and institutes an appropriate ban on the cultivation of GM wheat in the country.
  4. Recommend the National Biosafety Council in Brazil prohibit the commercial growing of GM wheat and suspends the decision by the National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) to allow the importation of GM wheat grain and flour into the country, and push for a review of the biosafety legislation by way of an open, transparent and democratic participatory process.
  5. Recommend the governments of Colombia, South Africa, Nigeria, and Indonesia instruct their biosafety authorities to review the GM wheat import approvals and initiate a moratorium on all approvals (product authorization, import, and environmental release) of GMOs.

The alliance has raised grave concerns regarding the planting and consumption of GM wheat, in that it violates several human rights, including the right to life and livelihoods; health; adequate food and food sovereignty; a balanced and pollution-free environment; access to land and territory; and the right to self-determination of peoples and local communities that survive off the environment and nature.

Further to these human rights violations, concerns have been raised about transgenic seeds generally, which are accompanied by technological packages that include harmful agrotoxins, over which a handful of multinational agrochemical companies hold a monopoly, under circumstances where farmers and millions of hectares of land are captive in a highly concentrated market.6 According to the alliance, introducing GM wheat into agricultural and food systems is akin to putting out a fire with gasoline, since it will advance the industrial agriculture frontier into marginal areas and local communities. This will, in turn, put greater pressure on fragile ecosystems and encourage further deforestation, land enclosures, and land and resource grabs, undermining the right to self-determination of local and indigenous communities, especially in Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.

The group’s substantive submission addresses the fallacy promoted by Bioceres that GM wheat HB4 is either drought tolerant or a solution to climate change, pointing to misleading and unscientific claims and marketing, and commercial failures of transgenic traits purporting to confer drought tolerance, especially in Argentina and South Africa.

The submission also outlines in detail numerous regulatory failures including, for example, in Paraguay, where the decision-making process was conducted in complete secrecy, thereby violating basic constitutional rights regarding fair administrative processes. Importing countries also bypassed internationally recognized international biosafety standards by not requiring feeding studies or toxicity data, thereby failing to ensure, based on the precautionary principle, that the necessary health and safety risks associated with GM wheat had been assessed thoroughly and independently. This is particularly pertinent in light of wheat being an important staple food in the Global South, consumed by hundreds of millions of people daily.

The submission also brings to the attention of the UN Special Rapporteurs that cultivation of this GM wheat, which is genetically engineered to withstand spraying of glufosinate-ammonium, will increase the use of this agrotoxin. Glufosinate is linked to a range of adverse health and environmental effects, including brain damage, developmental disability (autism), and developmental defects following paternal exposure, which has led to partial bans and restrictions in various countries.

Any widespread rollout within Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay will expose the public to a crop with minimal, if indeed any, toxicity data to ensure food safety. According to the network, this simply cannot be the precedent that we wish to set for the world’s most fundamental staple crop. Regulators are under an obligation to adopt a risk-averse and cautious approach to decision-making regarding GM approvals, in particular relating to novel GM traits and crop plants involving staple foods. Such an approach was not taken in any of the countries that have given GM wheat the green light. Considering the serious concerns raised in the submission and the extensive human rights violations outlined, it is incumbent upon the Special Rapporteurs to intervene, as a matter of urgency.

The submission is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

To support our call for urgent intervention by the seven UN Special Rapporteurs to block the cultivation and trade of GM wheat, click here.

The Global South alliance is made up of the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), South Africa; BASE Investigaciones Sociales, Paraguay; Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Nigeria; FIAN Indonesia; GRAIN; Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nigeria; Movimento Ciência Cidadã, Brazil; Pan Sin Veneno, Paraguay; Red Por una América Latina Libre de Transgénicos (RALLT); and Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad y la Naturaleza de América Latina (UCCSNAL).

For more information, please contact:

English: (ACBio/South Africa): (FIAN/Indonesia):

Portuguese: Larissa Packer (GRAIN): and Leonardo Melgarejo (Movimento Ciência Cidadã/Brazil):

Spanish: Elizabeth Bravo (Acción Ecológica/Ecuador) Fernando Frank (UCCSNAL/Argentina) and Abel Irala (BASE-IS/Paraguay):

  1. ↩︎
  2. ↩︎
  3. ↩︎
  4. These are: Dr Marcos A. Orellana, Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, Dr David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Mr Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Mr Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Mr Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Mr Francisco Cali Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and Ms Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to health. ↩︎
  5. These are: Civil Association of Socio-Environmental Health of Rosario, Argentina; The Network for a GMO-Free Latin America; Citizen Science Movement, Brazil; Social Research Base (BASE-IS); Bread without poison campaign, Paraguay; The Union of Scientists Committed to Society and Nature in Latin America (UCCSNAL); Network of Fumigated Peoples of Latin America; African Centre for Biodiversity; Friends of the Earth, Nigeria; GRAIN; Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria, and Food First Information and Action Network, Indonesia. ↩︎
  6. Until December 2022, just four companies controlled half (49%) of the world seed market and 75% of the agrochemical market: Bayer (19%), Corteva (18%), Syngenta (8%) and BASF (4%) (GRAIN, 2022). ↩︎

This submission is endorsed by the following organisations:

Acción Ecológica, Ecuador
Museo del Hambre, Argentina
BIOS, Argentina
Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores, Brasil
Red de Salud Popular Dr. Ramón Carrillo, Argentina
La casa violeta , Argentina
Frente de Lucha Ambiental Delia Villalba, Uruguay
Ecosol, Ecuador
Cátedra libre de Soberanía Alimentaria – Universidad Nacional de Cuyo – Mendoza, Argentina
Asamblea por la vida de Chilecito ( La Rioja), Argentina
Centro de Proteccion a la Naturaleza de Santa Fe, Argentina
Multisectorial Paren de Fumigarnos de Santa Fe, Argentina
Grupo Semillas, Colombia
Red de Cátedras Libres de Soberanía Alimentaria y Colectivos Afines (Red Calisas), Argentina
Red de Abogadas y Abogados por la Soberanía Alimentaria (Redasa), America Latina
Exaltación Salud, Argentina
Asociación Peruana de Consumidores y Usuarios – ASPEC, Perú
Asociación Americana de Juristas, Rama Ecuador, Ecuador
Tomás Enrique León Sicard, Colombia
CaLiSABIOSUR, Argentina
Bloque Verde, Costa Rica
South African Organic Sector Organization (SAOSO), South Africa
SAN Germany, Germany / International
Stibrawpa, Costa Rica
Gemeinschaftsgarten Querbeet Leipzig e.V., Deutschland
SeedChange, Canada
Eco Hope, South Africa
Red Solidaria Colmena RSC, Colombia
MST, Brasil
Grupo História Social do Campo, Brasil
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Canada
Ecology Action Centre, Canada
Slow Food, Brasil
Vigilance OGM, Canada
National Farmers Union, Canada
GMO Free Canada, Toronto Non-GMO Coalition and Safe Food Matters, Canada
Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores, Brasil
Movimento Camponês Popular, Brasil
Movimento de mulheres camponesa, Brasil
APARO, Brasil
Terra de Direitos, Brasil
Articulação Pacari Raizeiras do Cerrado, Brasil
Associação para o desenvolvimento rural de faxinal dos Carvalhos, Brasil
Red De Coordinación En Biodiversidad, Costa Rica
Movimento de Mulheres Camponesas, Brasil
Centro Vida Organica, Brasil
Articulação Nacional de Agroecologia, Brasil
Marina do MST – Deputada Estadual e Presidente da Comissão de Segurança Alimentar da Alerj (Rio de Janeiro), Brasil
RAPAL, Uruguay
Amigas da Terra, Brasil
Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense (Idec) / Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor, Brasil
FASE – Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional, Brasil
Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional, Brasil
Red De Coordinación En Biodiversidad, Costa Rica
Campanha Nacional em Defesa do Cerrado, Brasil
Centro de Tecnologias Alternativas da Zona da Mata CTA-ZM, Brasil
REDES – Amigos de la Tierra, Uruguay
Amigos de la Tierra, América Latina y el Caribe
SOF Sempreviva Organização Feminista, Brasil
SOBREVIVENCIA, Amigos de la Tierra, Paraguay
Non-GMO Project , USA
Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ), Indonesia
Serikat Buruh Migrant Indonesia SBMI, Indonesia
Forum Brasileiro de Soberania e Segurança Alimentar e Nutricional, Brasil
Associação Coletivo Apuã, Brasil
Colectivo por la autonomía, México
Red en Defensa d Maíz, México
Fórum de Nutrição e Democracia, Brasil
Base Investigaciones Sociales, Paraguay
Pan Sin Veneno, Paraguay
BASE-IS, Paraguay
Konphalindo, Indonesia
Sociedad de Economía Política del Paraguay , Paraguay
Agua’i biológico dinámica, Paraguay
Network for food sovereignty, Italy
Friends of the Earth International, International
ALIFA (Amal Ilmu manFaat), Indonesia
Coletivo Passarinho, Argentina
Nelson Boulangerie, Brasil
Abalimi Bezekhaya, South Africa
ipomoea Batata, Argentina
Land National Network Engagement Strategy (LandNNES), South Africa
Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG), South Africa
Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB), Zambia
Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa
Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity (TABIO), Tanzania
ECHO East Africa, Tanzania
Tunisian Association of Permaculture, Tunisia
Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology, Malawi
Shirikisho la Vyama vya Wakulima Wadogo Tanzania – SHIWAKUTA (The Confederation of Smallholder Farmers’ Associations in Tanzania), Tanzania
Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development, Egypt
Haki Nawiri Afrika, Kenya
Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement, Tanzania
First Food For Family Initiative (FIFFA), Nigeria
Biowatch South Africa, South Africa
RADD, Cameroun
Synergie Nationale des Paysans et Riverains du Cameroun, Cameroun
GE Free Comox Valley BC, Canada
Edmonton Small Press Association, Canada
Centro de Protección a la Naturaleza, Argentina
Foro Santafesino por la Salud y el Ambiente, Argenina
Multisectorial Paen de Fumigarnos de Santa Fe, Argentina
ADECI Asociacion Defensa del Ciudadano de Santa Fe, Argentina
Preservando Hudson Hudson, Buenos Aires, Argentina