October 21, 2012
(AP) It’s difficult to argue with the goals of the World Food Prize Foundation to recognize people who have helped improve the quality and availability of food to reduce world hunger.
But as the Des Moines-based foundation prepares for its 2012 award ceremony, which will be attended by dignitaries including Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, dozens of protesters hope to disrupt the activities.
Members of Occupy Des Moines plan civil disobedience efforts and expect to be arrested as they obstruct participants at the World Food Prize headquarters on Wednesday and at the Iowa Capitol on Thursday before the $250,000 prize is awarded to this year’s recipient.
Organizer Frank Cordaro said he expected about 30 people to turn out Wednesday, with 10 willing to be arrested. By Wednesday afternoon, police arrested five activists on trespassing charges after they tried to enter a private event.
The group opposes what it sees as a focus on corporate agriculture motivated more by profit than food safety or protection of natural resources.
“The prize is corporate agriculture’s way of branding themselves in the minds of the American people as the good guys, the people who are feeding the hungry and the best last chance the human race has to meet our basic needs,” said Cordaro, 61, a former Roman Catholic priest who’s been jailed numerous times for acts of civil disobedience to social issues. “The truth is the prize is owned and scripted for corporate agriculture and large corporate entities who want to make a profit first and don’t really care about the planet.”
The protesters say the foundation also supports organizations that promote and sell crops that include genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs. While many scientists say genetic modification has been useful in developing crops resistant to pests, drought and disease, opponents worry it could result in harm to the environment or people.
World Food Prize Foundation President Kenneth Quinn, a retired career diplomat and Foreign Service officer for the U.S. Government, said he’s dealt with a variety of protests in his career, but he’s puzzled that people would object to an organization founded by a man who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to fight hunger. Norman Borlaug was honored in 1970 for work that boosted agricultural