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US Aid agencies instructed to report anti-GM nations to USAID (14/1/2003)

14 January 2003

US AID AGENCIES INSTRUCTED TO REPORT ANTI-GM NATIONS TO USAID

From: "RV" <coordinator@geneticfoodalert.org.uk>

1. US Aid Agencies instructed to report anti-GM nations to USAID
2. US Aid Agencies pressing India to accept GM

The USDA has instructed US Aid Agencies to act as international policemen on behalf of US biotech corporations.

In the minutes of its meeting with aid agencies
[http://www.foodaidmanagement.org/worddocs/environmentwg/50602.doc] it is made clear that US Aid Agencies are expected to immediately report any opposition to GM food imports by recipient nations to USAID, that they are to make investigations to enable USAID to classify objections as either 'political' or 'trade' related and that USAID will then take the necessary 'diplomatic action' (sanctions?, WTO prosecutions?, aid cancellations/, IMF action?) to ensure that the shipments are accepted.

In these minutes it says: "USDA stated that the first response when a PVO encounters questioning from the receiving government on the GMO content of food aid shipments should be to inform the local USAID mission of these new concerns.

The PVO should begin immediately collecting documentation to serve as proof of the recipient country's laws/policies and to assist in determining if the problem is trade or politically motivated. The local USAID mission will likely negotiate with the local government officials to clarify and gain an understanding of why the clearance of these products is being questioned/disputed now at this time and for what reasons. Especially at this early stage of the situation, USAID's diplomatic ability in resolving the situation is crucial."

Whereas most Aid Agencies buy their food on the free market - and thereby support the livelihoods of small farmers in recipient nations - some US Aid Agencies only ship US grain provided by USAID.

This is an anti-competitive practice condemned by the OECD and the international aid community because of its trade-distorting effects and its devastating impact on the rural economies of poor nations. As the European Commission recently stated: "The EU does not at all question the granting of genuine food aid. It questions the use of food aid donations used as surplus disposal measures. Some WTO members have used food aid donations more as a production and commercial tool to dispose of surpluses and promote sales in foreign markets than as a development tool tailored to the needs of the recipient countries. It is ironic that the amount of food aid given by some countries tends to increase significantly when prices are low whereas levels are much lower when prices are high - and food aid is most needed." [
http://europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/guesten.ksh?p_action.gettxt=gt&doc=IP/0
2/1892|0|RAPID&lg=EN&display ]

The dependency of US agencies such as CARE and Catholic Relief Services on USAID means they are now being used as international policemen and marketers for the US biotech industry.

The following article from India explains how these two charities are being used to force open the door to GM in India after a USAID shipment was rejected.
---
This is a News Report appearing in The Financial Express, India on January 13, 2003. The news report says that after the government refused to give permission to CARE-India and Catholic Relief Services to import GM corn and soya from US, these two organisations have appealed before the Appeallate Authority constituted under GMO Rules of the country.

Below the News Report is a comment piece of the author on the same subject  in his weekly column FARM FRONT
...

This is a News Report appearing in The Financial Express, India on January 13, 2003. The news report says that after the government refused to give permission to CARE-India and Catholic Relief Services to import GM corn and soya from US, these two organisations have appealed before the Appeallate Authority constituted under GMO Rules of the country.

Below the News Report is a comment piece of the author on the same subject in his weekly column FARM FRONT

---------------------------

GM Corn-Soya Import Issue Referred To Appellate Body

Ashok B Sharma

New Delhi, Jan 12

The controversial issue of refusing the first shipment of 1,000 tonne soya-corn blend from the US on the grounds that it might contain genetically modified (GM) foods hazardous to human health has been referred to the Appellate Authority constituted under the GMO Import Rules.

The one-man Appellate Authority headed by the former environment secretary, Viswanath Anand, is slated to hear the contending parties on February 11, 2003.

According to the GMO Import Rules, only those GM products which are approved by GEAC can only be imported for commercial use. The GEAC has, so far, approved only transgenic Bt cotton for commercial cultivation. GM corn, maize and soya are not approved by the GEAC.

Earlier, the international NGOs operating in the country namely the Cooperation for American Relief Everywhere (CARE) and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) had proposed to import corn-soya blend from the US for distribution to schools children. The CARE had proposed to import 15,000 tonne of soya-corn blend while CRS proposed to import 8,000 tonne of the same from the US. Both CARE and CRS applied to the government way back in July 2002 to allow them to import these food products. Subsequently, towards the end of the year 2002, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) functioning under the Union environment ministry refused to allow the import of this food consignment from the US on the grounds that it may contain GM stuffs which may be hazardous to human health and environment. There was also an apprehension that the consignment may contain GM Starlink corn which is approved in the US only for industrial use and animal feed and not for direct human consumption.

The matter turned worse when the US government and the exporting agency refused to certify that the consignment does not contain any GM products. Instead, they stated that in the US, non-GM foods are mixed with GM foods and is, therefore, difficult to segregate. Meanwhile, the CARE and the CRS approached the Appellate Authority constituted under the GMO Import Rules to intervene.

GEAC former chairman AM Gokhale, who passed the order for refusing the controversial consignment of GM food from the US, said, "We are not against any GM foods as such, but we do not want to undertake any risks of possible hazards as these products are not yet tested in our country."

Mr Gokhale has been shifted out of the Union environment ministry and has joined his new assignment as chairman of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) from January 3, 2003. Incidentaly, the news of GEAC&rsquo;s refusal on the controversial GM food consignment was unkown to the media till a foreign agency reported it on January 2. Meanwhile, the GEAC is now headless. Ms Meena Gupta, IAS from the Orissa cadre is expected to join her new assignment by January 15.

(This news report appeared in The Financial Express, India on January 13, 2003)

FARM FRONT

Caution Needed In Imports Of Starlink Corn

Ashok B Sharma

The Indian government and the country&rsquo;s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has rightly expressed concerns about the possible hazards of Starlink Corn and other genetically modified (GM) food products which are not yet approved in this country.

The GEAC has recently disapproved the request of CARE-India and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to import of the first consignment of 1,000 tonne of corn-soya blend from the US on the ground that it may contain GM products. The GEAC also has apprehensions that the consignment may contain the 'hazardous' Starlink Corn, which is not yet been found fit for human consumption in the US.

Both the CARE-India and CRS has now approached the appeallate authority on imports of GMOs to intervene and allow them to import the consignment. The Appeallate Authority is likely to hear the contending parties on February 11, 2003. The GEAC gave its disapproval for the import of the US consignment after the the US government and the exporting agency failed to certify that the consignment does not contain GM foods.

The issue is now clear. There are reports of many countries refusing the US consignments of GM foods on grounds of health and environmental safety. Since, the rejected consignments was said to contain GM corn and soya, it would be better to limit the scope of discussion to only to these two GM crops. Concerns about the US export of GM corn has been recently raised in Japan and Australia. Reuters News Service from Washington in December 30, 2002 had reported "Japan has found trace amounts of unapproved Starlink Corn in an American shipment bound for Tokyo&rsquo;s food supply, renewing fears that major trading partners may once again turn their backs on the US crops."

Japan's ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries detected Starlink Corn in in the vessel, The North King docked at Nagoya harbour. The USDA officials in Washington was reported to be then unaware that the said consignment contained Starlink Corn.

The genetically modified Starlink Corn was developed by Aventis CropScience. It slipped into the US food chain in September 2000 sparking a nationwide recall of more than 300 kinds of cornbased foods. The regulatory authority in the US has approved Starlink Corn for animal feed only. It has not approved Starlink Corn for human consumption as it might cause allergic reactions. Though the USDA's Federal Grain Service has put in place specific procedures to identify and segregate Starlink corn and its traces from the food chain it seems that the system has not worked well.

Japan has found that about 1,200 tonne of cron in a 19,234 tonne shipment from US contains traces of Starlink Corn. It has decided to enhance its capability in testing and decting Starlink Corn and any other hazardous GM foods. China has developed a microchip for testing and detecting hazardous GM foods. There are reports that one of the major importer of US corn in South Korea, KOCOPIA is now insisting on non-Starlink certification and samples for its tenders.

There are reports that 50,000 tonne of the US corn containing genetically engineered (GE) varieties arriving in Brisbane, Australia on January 9, 2003 for use as chicken feed. The Australian Gene Technology Regulator licenced the cargo even though some GE lines have not been assessed or approved in that country. This has caused widespread resentment in Australia. The Democrats agriculture spokesperson, Senator John Cherry had said that mixing of GM corn with GM-free corn into the animal feedstock chain could interfere with certification that Australian pork, poultry and beef exports are GM free. Australian government is now concerned that their meat and poultry exports to the European Union and other countries may be hampered.

Thus it shows that the concern of the Indian government and the GEAC over the unapproved GM foods entering the country is really serious. The Indian government should put in place effective mechanism for detecting traces of unapproved GM products in the food chain in the country and be stern in refusing imports of such hazardous foods. It should import the technology for detecting and testing unapproved GM traces in the food chain from either Japan of China. The sooner the better.

Further it a matter of concern to note that an independent consultant to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Norbert Hirschhorn has found that food companies have attempted to place scientists favourable to their views on WHO and FAO committees. They have financially supported NGOs which were invited to formal discussions on key issues on the UN agencies. They have financed research and policy groups that supported their views and they have financed individuals who promote anti-regulation ideology to the public. It is, therefore, necessary that national governments and the public should be very cautious of such moves of the multinational companies.

(This article appeared in The Financial Express, India on January 13, 2003 in the author's weekly column FARM FRONT)

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