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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
Who gains from globalisation?
A BBC-2 series has been exploring the issue of globalisation, showing the links between countries and individuals in the global economy.

Tales from the Global Economy includes 'The Cappuccino Trail', transmitted on BBC Two on 26 August at 1920 BST, 'Greenspan Alert' transmitted on 2 September at 1820 BST, 'Where's Our Money' transmitted on 9 September at 1910 BST, and 'The Business of Christmas', transmitted on 16 September at 1840 BST.

The first programme examined the marketing of coffee, from the growers in Central America to the coffee bars of Europe and America.

Later programmes have explored the links between investors and developing countries and role of the head of the US central bank, Alan Greenspan, in setting interest rates. The last programme looks at the business of making toys for Christmas.

Globalisation has become one of the most important issues on the international agenda. Many world leaders argue that increasing globalisation through closer trade links is vital to restore economic growth.

But many protesters say that the global economic system is undemocratic and unfair to poor countries.

Is the world economy organised on a fair basis? Do people in developing countries get a fair share of what they produce? Will the growing globalisation of the world economy eventually benefit everyone?

The programme producer, Jeremy Newson, will be discussing your questions and comments in a live webcast on Thursday, 13th September at 1500BST.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


Corporations are NOT democratic, yet they have influence far greater than an individual voter

M Smith, UK
Globalisation definitely benefits the ultra rich "mega-corporations". By the way corporations are NOT democratic, yet they have influence far greater than an individual voter. Globalisation as we know it is quixotic at best. What is needed are "real reforms".
M Smith, UK

The rich get richer/poor get poorer cliché is getting old. Let's take individual responsibility and stop grouping economic classes. Buying products or building companies in poor countries cannot possibly create less opportunity for individuals in that country to make better for themselves. Nobody forces poor country citizens to work or not work for a "Global Corporation" so if they do choose to, it must be an opportunity they find beneficial. Buying products from a poor country economically speaking is the best thing that can happen to that country. What else is there? Socialist propaganda?
Dave Graham, USA

If the Federal Reserve in New York controls the global economy with its interest rate policy and, if the chairman of the Federal Reserve is accountable only to the US congress, is there not a democratic deficit in the very heart of the process of globalisation?
Mohansingh, India


We as consumers have an enormous power

Marcel, Nicaragua
I think globalisation has both sides: positive and negative, but actually it is definitely going the wrong way, is causing more damage then good as it is killing local economies and enlarging the rich-poor gap. To compensate this I think we have to take some action, we as consumers have an enormous power and there are a number of thing that can be done, e.g.: start rejecting some brands, consuming others (those that practice ethics), protesting and making pressure on governments to enforce rules for fair trade and to encourage local economic sustainability.

If the only "driving force" of the globalisation is the "profit", some of our actions should be directed to kill (or lower) this "profit" - if sales go down corporations will have no choice just to react and re-think their called "natural" (but still unethical) way to conduct business. There is definitely a price to pay, and strategies to work out, but are we going to do something or to stay like that, just complaining?
Marcel, Nicaragua

The concept of Globalisation is the exploitation of global opportunities and is most beneficial to the developed countries who are able to recognise that within these poor countries they are able to exploit resources. Globalisation helps these 'fat cats' to become richer at the expense of the poorer country. These large organisations will manipulate the local governments by helping with the local infrastructure and by paying them bribes. Most of the money made at the expense of cheap raw material and low labour costs will be taken out of the poor country to benefit the shareholders and the richer country.
Bushra, UK

Globalisation is a moustache for buying low and selling high the energies of poor workers in other countries. The marginal benefit in the standard of living of the buyers in developed countries is far greater than the marginal benefit derived by the workers in underdeveloped countries.
L. Loukopoulos, USA


The true benefits of globalisation will take a long time to disperse across the globe; but they will, sooner or later

Nikhil Pande, US
Believe it or not, the world economy in general has grown in the past few decades as a result of globalisation, and so have those of the poorer countries. These are hard facts, and they make sense because, in spite of the many imperfections that still exist in the way countries are engaging each other in trade, there still is such a thing as 'comparative advantage' of one country over another in producing some good or other. Every country can find something which it can make and sell to others more efficiently than anyone else. Therein lies the key to prosperity. It's not easy, and the true benefits of globalisation will take a long time to disperse across the globe; but they will, sooner or later.
Nikhil Pande, US

No one has mentioned that one of the effects of this continuous march to Globalisation is 'the Greenhouse effect'. Tne consequences of Globalisation will affect everyone in the long run, for the worse I should think.
Deborah, UK


At the end of the day it is the buyer's responsibility to make the companies provide ethical products

Steve M, UK
At the end of the day it is the buyer's responsibility to make the companies provide ethical products. Companies will always try to make money by selling unethical products. The same thing applies to energy - technology has existed for decades that allows pollution free energy creation, but is it being used? The government wouldn't force sane changes to take place, so it's up to the individual to make the right choices. It's about time that people started to realise how much power they have in changing the way things are done. Ideally, companies would be run ethically in the first place, but the owners are generally too greedy for that - and of course, there are shareholders waiting to feast on profits!
Steve M, UK

Globalisation, (a.k.a. Capitalism), benefits the rich only, it's not a matter of opinion; it's an economic/social fact. The other side of the coin is socialism; both philosophies have their problems, and have to be 'tweaked' in order to make them work. So, it seems to me that we should just pick the one that's the most mutually beneficial and keep working at it!
A Socialist, The Earth


Globalisation is, in summary, another modern way of "colonisation"

Muhannad al Nabulsi, Jordan
Globalisation does not mean "coffee trade" only, it means unemployment, companies merging, rich become richer and poor become poorer, utilisation of cheap resources from third world nations for the benefits of advanced nations. It is, in summary, another modern way of "colonisation"...etc.
Muhannad al Nabulsi, Jordan

Big business and the already-rich! Everyone else suffers stress, pressure, lower wages, and threats (from the company to move elsewhere).
Angus, Hong Kong SAR

The temptation is to conclude that no matter what we do, we will always end up supporting harmful causes. For example, even buying a product can indirectly support child labour or cruelty to animals. When applied to pensions and investment funds, the link is more obvious. We must resist hopelessness however, because it denies the simple truth that we can improve (not transform) the world in our own small way by our own choices. "Ethical" investment institutions and banks DO exist, and by using these we can improve the way our money is put to use. Aside from that, it is also possible to invest directly in ethical or at least "neutral" stocks. There is no excuse for dodging personal responsibility!
Darren Yeats, UK

Mr J Wilson in his response could do worse than recognise that there is no such thing as economic determinism. As one of his fellow countryman (GP Brockway) has noted "[t]here is a fatality about economics that in the end chokes any society that makes too great a distinction between the rewards of the favoured and of the disfavoured." Given the track record on "Kyoto", sounds like some know the value of everything and the price of nothing!
Joseph Savirimuthu, England


I would love to see more products from Papua-New Guinea or Burundi

Arri London, EU/US
Genuine globalisation is probably a good idea. I would love to see more products from Papua-New Guinea or Burundi or other fantastic places in my local shops. However, that certainly isn't what the US (and other countries) intend. True globalisation should mean that all countries have absolutely equal access to each other's markets. But the wealthier countries don't seem to want that.
Arri London, EU/US

Globalisation can benefit developing countries, but only if they are allowed to trade on fair terms. This means the US and EU keeping to their WTO commitments and reducing tariffs on textiles, agriculture and finished products, instead of low value raw materials. This can only occur within a WTO where trade rules are strictly policed. The alternative, getting rid of the WTO, would result in a free-for-all with developed countries under no legal obligation to accept imports from an increasingly marginalised developing world.
Ian Richards, UK

Many years ago I worked for an Aid organisation, and attended a conference on multi-national global expansion. I still recall the comments of one of the delegates from a very poor country who said "My people are so poor and desperate that the only thing worse than being exploited is not being exploited". This is the problem that must be resolved.
David St John, UK/Overseas

Here in Australia, all of our factories are closing down and going off shore, and we have many people unemployed and living on the streets. Why can't those companies open subsidiaries overseas instead of closing ours down? The only folk who seem to benefit by globalisation are the big corporations.
Patricia Long, Australia


Trade raises real wages and living standards

Maurice, Hong Kong
What is pathetic about the anti-globalisation crowd is that they don't realise how their speeches affect others. Trade raises real wages and living standards. Tariffs and all the other nonsense they put forward as arguments do the exact reverse. We'd have higher prices, higher interest rates and fewer choices. The Third World would get fewer jobs and even more widespread poverty. Oh what a wonderful world that would be. Not.
Maurice, Hong Kong

Globalisation is not a concept or a goal to achieve but an inevitable outcome of advanced capitalism which makes accumulation of wealth in a few economically rich countries, making the poor become poorer. Globalisation makes a monopoly of essential goods and services paving the way for rich countries to dictate terms which will be in their favour. Computer technology, medicine and even food have been monopolised. The so-called 'market economy" is a tool which is commonly used by the rich to exploit poor countries in the name of globalisation. This is the height of capitalism and its downfall is imminent when the evils of globalisation become exposed.
Tilak Abeysinghe, Sri Lanka

I have a response to a comment made in regards to globalisation by Mr Wong Shew Yam of Malaysia who said that "There has to be some higher purpose other than simply a profit motive." Well Mr Yam, the fact is that profit is the only motive for globalisation and to "imagine" otherwise is simply a fantasy. I am sorry Mr Yam but that is the way the world really is. Like it or not.
Jeff Wilson, USA


Globalisation may be inevitable but Global Capitalism is not

Barry T, England
Globalisation may be inevitable but Global Capitalism is not. It has manifestly failed to provide justice and fairness in the distribution of wealth and is now like a plague destroying our planet and our communities. It should quickly be assigned to the dustbin of history. Governments should take back power from global corporations and legislate and encourage local economic sustainability.
Barry T, England

Does this mean we are ALL one big happy family? I think not, it only benefits the big players in Industry, Commerce and Services. We don't need it, we need to re-focus on the important things in life like helping countries become independent financially, which in some cases means the removal of the incumbent political regime. The value of our monetary system has gone backwards as have our values on human life, these are the important things, we don't need to have an inflated economy.
Jim, Australia

I think only developed nations get benefit from the globalisation. I am not saying this because I belong to a developing country. Any step pertaining to the World Trade Organisation or other organisations back developing and underdeveloped countries into the vicious circle of poverty.
Lokendra, India


Common sense tells me that this situation must reach a critical point in the near future

Mark Totton, Norway
Growth cannot continue forever. Shareowners press for increased returns which drives companies to reduce purchase costs etc. Producing countries have learned their aspirations from the wealth of the first world and naturally want and expect the same. In order to keep growing, the multinationals cannot afford to pay more for products.

Common sense tells me that this situation must reach a critical point in the near future. I don't think it is avoidable, despite the fantastic efforts of individuals and organisations to improve the situation. I would like to believe that intervention at UN level would help, but I have become cynical in my middle age. I am afraid that some form of economic crisis is the only event that will change the cycle. Perhaps it is poetic justice that such a crisis would (hopefully) impact the consumer nations more than the producers - who will, after all, still have their produce.
Mark Totton, Norway

How typical that someone from Dubya's home state (C, Keith Orrison, Texas) should say something as absurdly meaningless as: "I believe that so-called globalisation is nothing more than the natural progression of freedom". Yes, and the new world order will be a lovely sunny place where everyone's happy. If the person (and others) who wrote this read what the posters from countries directly effected by globalisation had written, they might have thought differently. Globalisation means only one thing, that the shareholders and executives of multinationals get richer whilst the poor get poorer. Any pretence otherwise is delusional.
Dot, UK


They seen enamoured by a quaint view of life in developing countries

Scott Brown, USA
The protesters against globalisation are concerned about a wide range of issues but mostly they seen enamoured by a quaint view of life in developing countries. Opposed to the type of jobs provided by multinationals? Why not ask those in the developing nations what they want? I'm sure they are happy to have those jobs. Sure, there are important environmental and labour issues, but these need to be separated from the issue of trade. Protestors need representation in a civilised debate, not hooliganism.
Scott Brown, USA

Red Ken may have been misguided in the past, but he's right on this issue
James Evans, Canada

The problem with free trade is that it rewards the most efficient producers full stop, even if they're destroying the environment and virtually enslaving their workers. We've got to get away from this dogma that tariffs are inherently bad, and start using them to reward those who treat their workers and the environment, with respect, and to punish those who don't.
T. Reynolds, USA

Who benefits from the global coffee trade? The consumer. And what's wrong with that? When I buy coffee, I'm after a drink - I'm not trying to be a social service!
David Moran, Scotland/ Australia

We in the coffee growing countries merely grow coffee for purposes of generating revenue for ourselves and we export it without adding value. It is high time for us to go into joint ventures with coffee roasters worldwide and ADD VALUE so that we get real value for our coffee and thereby improve on our socio-economic welfare.
F.G. Sinyoli, Uganda


There has to be some higher purpose other than simply profit motive

Wong Shew Yam, Malaysia
Globalisation is inevitable. Global companies should act responsibly to the host country in particular and the world community at large. There has to be some higher purpose other than simply profit motive.
Wong Shew Yam, Malaysia

Is there such a thing as globalisation? Even your figures suggest that only 0.5% of Americans are properly online. And that is the richest country in the world! The figures for the most populous countries in the world - China, India, Indonesia - are much lower. Don't you agree that by far the most important aspect of 'globalisation' is the international transfer of capital, overwhelmingly from financial institutions and corporations? But this is not new at all! Things like the internet and e-mail have only served to put a face on a phenomenon which is decades - if not centuries - old.
Vitor Thoma, France


I know first hand what export agriculture has done to Cameroon

Che Sunday, Cameroon/USA
I have always been an opponent of export-oriented agro economies. Among the developed countries, can anyone point to any of these countries and say, their development was propelled by agriculture? Most especially, export oriented agriculture? Why would anyone think coffee is bound to make a difference? Coming from Cameroon, I know first hand what export agriculture has done to Cameroon. The most fertile pieces of land have been taken over by the government, following a legacy passed down by colonial administrations. We grow cocoa, rubber, bananas and coffee and tea on these estates destined for Europe. We are still at the bottom of the development ladder.

You would think that part of this land could be used to grow rice, beans or plantains to help improve the nutritional situation of the masses. But no. Cameroon has been an exporter of agric products from colonial times to the present day.
Che Sunday, Cameroon/U.S.A

Globalisation is actually accelerating 'monopolisation'. The global companies ultimately merge together and then they start determining the economy. The best way to stop them is to encourage local production and taxing global transaction or mergers. It might be cheaper production for the globalised companies considering economies of scale but that can be countered by giving tax benefits to local small scale industries.
Gagan, UK


The main beneficiaries are the supermarket chains in the UK

Christopher Lamb, England
The main beneficiaries are the supermarket chains in the UK whose main purpose is to rip off their customers. How are supermarket items so much cheaper in France or Germany (many of which are exported from the UK) when German taxes and wages are higher ?
Christopher Lamb, England

Markets work. Sometimes the cycles are too long for impatient people, but imbalances eventually correct themselves one way or another. Just look at the electricity markets in the US. The California situation is already correcting itself. We will go from a shortage to a glut. The same with coffee. We have a glut, and we will eventually have a shortage. Poor producers will eventually go out of production if they can't make their costs and a shortage will result. Things will correct. The only people in the west who should be concerned about this are coffee futures traders.
Andrew P, USA


Globalisation is becoming an increasingly bitter medicine to swallow

Alfred Fiks, Costa Rica
Here in Costa Rica, where coffee and banana prices only seem to drop, where our Intel factory is laying off workers, but our gasoline prices only go up, globalisation is becoming an increasingly bitter medicine to swallow. Will the benefits for the farmers and workers show up mañana?
Alfred Fiks, Costa Rica

The stock markets all around the world have had seven unprecedented years of growth. Now they are going through a period of correction and revaluation based on the profits companies are actually making. Globalisation is becoming more and more intense, and companies are striving ever harder to squeeze the last few dollars of profit out of their goods and services.

Do we really think that company margins and profits can be increased indefinitely and stock prices always ultimately go up? Every great civilisation that there has ever been has ultimately comes to an end. Surely the current great "civilisation" will finish the same way to be replaced with a new order. To think otherwise is simply unwise and unrealistic (this assumes of course that the world isn't destroyed beyond self-repair first by globalisation, and the pressure to make a fast buck).
Nigel Burman, England

I believe that so-called globalisation is nothing more than the natural progression of freedom. Access to the best products and services regardless of their national origin should be the right of every human everywhere. One world one market is a great concept. The only drawback is when countries that engage in protectionism or nations such as China who use prison labour these practices are an antithesis to the natural order of free trade, and such nations should be barred from the global marketplace.
C. Keith Orrison, Texas

Americans must remember that the reason the food prices in the States are so low, is because the vast majority of the produce is harvested by migrant workers who have no "rights", get very low pay and work under the most appalling labour laws in any "Developed" country. Even here in Grenada, a so-called third world country, the workers enjoy labour laws that most working class Americans can only dream of.
Tony Sorace, Grenada (UK/US)


Unfortunately the only long term solution is for the coffee producers to produce less coffee

Toby Butler, UK
Unfortunately the fair trade initiative does not solve a problem. It pegs a price against something with no regard for its demand. If every coffee producer was guaranteed a good price for their product, then more and more people would start to grow it. Supply would outstrip demand and we would then see the ridiculous situation of coffee mountains, quotas and such. Ask our farmers where that leads too! Unfortunately the only long term solution is for the coffee producers to produce less coffee.
Toby Butler, UK

What we are seeing are only the first steps to achieving world government. So we are still witnessing the birth pangs of globalisation, even if the coffee trade is just an example. A time will come when things will smooth out and there would be no such wide divide between rich and poor, but for now we certainly need more people who take initiatives, like Cafédirect.
Athena, Malta

To Simon, England - Oh please! Are you trying to tell me that you can't afford to pay another £1.64 for a jar of decent coffee, that you'll get a large number of cups out of? At less than the cost of a pint, I find that hard to swallow! Whilst I only buy Cafedirect myself, I think more coffee bars and restaurants should think about changing over to a fair trade coffee so customers can choose to have a cuppa with a clear conscience when they're out!
Maggie, N. Ireland

The collapse in coffee prices is largely the fault of the World Bank. They advised developing countries to grow coffee as a lucrative cash crop, resulting in oversupply. Now these countries can neither sell it nor feed themselves. God save us from well-intentioned amateurs.
Shaun Kilcoin, UK


Why don't we see the Fairtrade mark on more items?

Tim Hiscock, UK
John Tillotson, there is a decaff Fairtrade coffee from Cafedirect. If your local shop doesn't stock it, then ask for it. There are so many products in our shops which are sourced from developing countries, so why don't we see the Fairtrade mark on more items?
Tim Hiscock, UK

All very concerning: short term 'cheap' = long term expensive. Slightly off the point, but I was reading about UK farming in the paper at the weekend, and how the countryside will collapse as we know it if farmers continue to go under (because we want cheap food). It seems to me that the demands for growth on growth profits and our sights for 'now' rather than 'then' on a number of fronts - from coffee to farming - are denigrating our world as well as life in the UK bit by bit.
Steve, UK

I found the programme entertaining but disjointed and confused. Nevertheless, I went out next day and bought the new Cafedirect blend but was disappointed with the taste - mainly as a result of a mild roast. Surely not in tune with today's coffee culture? Verdict: worthy but must try harder!
Russell, UK

Despite the seeming volatility of the markets it still behoves customers to have a conscience when making their supermarket choices and to think of the poor in the Third World.
Janet Watson, England

The only way to counter the "market forces" is to pay a fair price for a certified coffee that will be returned to the grower. As we continue to find out, "cheap" now is very expensive in the long run: In the loss of species and habitat, and the human suffering it creates. Changing our consumption patterns to create greater global benefit is a profound, yet simple, moral act. Buying sustainably grown coffee (shade grown/organic/fair-trade certified)really does make a world of difference.
Danny O'Keefe, USA

Do boycotts still have any effect or influence in these situations? I am not talking about embargoes - like the US stance on Cuba - but the unwillingness of millions of consumers to buy a product.
Robert del Valle, USA


Buying sustainably grown coffee really does make a world of difference

Danny O'Keefe, USA
The only way to counter the "market forces" is to pay a fair price for a certified coffee that will be returned to the grower. As we continue to find out, "cheap" now is very expensive in the long run: in the loss of species and habitat, and the human suffering it creates. Changing our consumption patterns to create greater global benefit is a profound, yet simple, moral act. Buying sustainably grown coffee (shade grown, organic, fair-trade or certified) really does make a world of difference.
Danny O'Keefe, USA

Do boycotts still have any effect or influence in these situations? I am not talking about embargoes - like the US stance on Cuba - but the unwillingness of millions of consumers to buy a product.
Robert del Valle, USA

When you consider we only drink caffeine-rich coffee to help us keep up with the rat race - thereby leaving poor countries even further behind - the possibility of there being any good ethics behind the coffee industry is beyond me. Anyway, excuse me while I go and get my double espresso.
Richard, UK


I would love to buy the coffee but at £1.64p more than what I usually buy there is now way, despite my beliefs....

Simon, England
I can't help being a little cynical after all if only the rich people can afford the morally/politically correct coffee do you think they will? Just have a look at how people get rich in the first place and then ask will they buy a morally correct product?
The programme also left me wondering after stating the 76 cent production cost why Cafe Direct has to pay the grower $1-60? Thereby making the product expensive and a luxury item. Why not ask the grower his minimum needed price to survive and continue production, guarantee him that and pass that on to the consumer, then everyone would benefit and be able to buy the product. Personally I would love to buy it but at £1.64p more than what I usually buy there is now way, despite my beliefs....
Simon, England

There seems to be a tremendous media circus surrounding coffee with Time Out, the Observer and the broad sheets all dedicating space to the discrepancy between high - and rising - coffee prices on the high street and the volatile markets and suffering farmers. Timely and 'stimulating' viewing just as Costa prepare to push their Fair Trade brand to UK consumers Let's hope it sells and encourages more people to buy responsibly in future.
Grant Rattray, UK

I would like to buy the fair trade coffee but it is unfortunate that they do not (at present) do a de-caff range. I will continue to wait for the day but for now the conglomerates have the upper hand.
John Tillotson, South Wales


All wholesalers/ consumers in the richer nations must take some responsibility for those less fortunate through ethical business practice

Peter Goodey
I was delighted to see the well constructed programme, offering viewers an insight into the global realities of the coffee industry. As joint managing director of a coffee company, selling many different brands and blends of coffee, including a full range of Cafedirect teas & coffees, I am fully in favour of supporting the growers in poorer economies and will continue to promote quality products such as Cafedirect to our end users. All wholesalers/consumers in the richer nations must take some responsibility for those less fortunate through ethical business practise.
The shoppers in Safeway's to me summed up our arrogance and ignorance.
Peter Goodey

I have been buying CafeDirect for a few years and this excellent programme only reinforced my determination to continue.
Given the recent anti-globalisation protests it must be remembered that the argument should not be against globalisation (presumably without which South Americans would not be selling coffee to me) but against the lack of regulation of global markets particularly in relation to monopolies and anti-trust matters. Companies would simply not be allowed to treat suppliers from their own other industrialised in the manner in which coffee producers are treated.
My message: more globalisation, more international law.
Nick Nelson, UK

W I still believe that the governments have a major role to play in the globalisation of coffee and that as only 1% of the global coffee trade is performed by Fair trade coffee. More should be done to restrict the large multinationals gaining large profits on such business, whereby millions suffer.
Attiye Faraji, Tanzania


many supermarkets do NOT stock these brands on their shelves. They tell me that there is no call for it!

Denise brown, England
Cafe direct and such like are doing an excellent work on behalf of the poor in our world. Sadly many supermarkets do NOT stock these brands on their shelves. They tell me that there is no call for it! It is true that they do not sell much, but then when it is not there for us to buy how can they? Let's all start pestering our local shops until they do something about it.
Denise brown, England

It was disappointing to see Cafe Direct people on the TV programme repeatedly referring to Britain as England. They try to promote political correctness but cause offence to me and millions of other Scots. By the way I always buy Fair Trade Tea and Coffee.
Alan Glass, Scotland

I am very optimistic that the more that people know about the effects their shopping decisions have on the producers in developing countries, the more will buy fair-trade and Café Direct products.
In particular I feel these organisations should be advertising, (and educating) to our young consumers, many of whom are naturally idealistic.
We need more free trade products!
Eric Wolton, England

This just shows what's wrong with the global economy which is what the May the first protests where about. Isn't there a better way of doing trade whereby we tax coffee to give money to the third world?
Jason, UK

See also:

16 May 01 | Business
Coffee farmers 'face destitution'
17 May 01 | Sci/Tech
GM coffee 'threatens farmers'
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