Panel: Environmental Racism





will be one of the major themes at

Biodevastation 7: A Forum on Environmental Racism, World Agriculture and


May 16 – 18, 2003, St. Louis, Missouri,

Mark Mitchell, M.D., Director, Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice

Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Research Associate, Consumer Policy Institute

Stan Williams, Coordinator, Seeds For Survival (Vancouver, B.C.)

[Others TBA]

The panel “Environmental Racism and Genetic Engineering” will be at 7:30 pm,

Saturday, May 17. It will link struggles for justice and healthy communities

with threats posed by genetic technologies. The panel will bring together

people who work on environmental justice advocacy with those who work on

genetic engineering (GE) in agriculture and human genetic technologies. It

will be a unique opportunity to discuss how genetic technologies may pose a

hazard to the health of people of color and low-income people, and how the

technologies are being used to discriminate against and exploit communities

of color.

The goals and applications of all technologies need to be examined for their

effects on diverse communities. The track record of Monsanto illustrates how

corporations are able to function in a society that accepts environmental

racism, leaving many without adequate protection against polluters.

Dr. Mark Mitchell, founding president of the Connecticut Coalition for

Environmental Justice, has spent nearly 20 years working in the public health

sector on struggles for environmental justice. Dr. Mitchell has spent the

past five years educating communities on effects of the environment on

health. Working primarily with people of color and low-income people, he

teaches what can be done to prevent and reduce the disproportionately higher

rates of disease in their communities. As a physician specializing in

epidemiology and public health he will outline some of the major

environmental health threats for communities of color and how communities

have successfully fought for their rights to safe and healthy environments.

Dr. Michael Hansen is a scientist with the Consumer Policy Institute who has

worked with African governments’ pressured by the US to accept GE food as

“food aid.” The US government argues that it has regulated GE foods for

safety and that governments across the developing world should therefore

accept them. Dr. Hansen has played an important role of providing information

on the weaknesses of US regulations and health hazards to African government

officials. He has witnessed US pressure tactics since he also participates in

international food safety negotiations (Codex) where richer governments use

bullying tactics to force their positions.

Dr. Hansen is also concerned with the use of recombinant Bovine Growth

Hormone (rBGH). His expertise on the health impacts of rBGH was an important

part of the successful struggle in Canada against its approval. There could

be particular problems with consumption of GE foods in low income communities

and communities of color by those who already face multiple health threats.

Stan Williams is the coordinator of an indigenous youth organization called Seeds

For Survival, based in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. His group is working in local

communities to develop strategies for local indigenous food sovereignty.

Additional presenters to be announced.

The panel presentation will open up important issues for discussion and

strategizing that will continue in workshops and other panels throughout the


Biodevastation 7 also includes the following panel discussions:

10:00 am, Friday, May 16. “The International Threat to Farms and Farmers”

7:00 pm, Friday, May 16. “Globalization and Food Imperialism”

10:00 am, Saturday, May 17. “Backyard Bioweapons: Biolabs, Biodefense,

Biotech, & Billions of $”

10:00 am, Sunday, May 18. “Crop Contamination and the Future of Indigenous


On the afternoon of Sunday, May 18 there will be an anti-globalization

convergence at the World Agricultural Forum. or