6 December 2002
US CALLS GM FOOD AID REFUSAL A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY - AFRICAN LEADERS SHOULD BE PUT ON TRIAL
US calls food aid refusal a crime against humanity
BRUSSELS, Dec 5 (Reuters) - African leaders who refuse to accept food aid due to fears of genetically modified products are committing crimes against humanity and should be put on trial, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.
He said Europe, which has effectively banned the development and import of new genetically modified crops, should do more to help millions of people facing famine in southern Africa and reassure them over the safety of such crops.
"People that deny food to their people, that are in fact starving people to death should be held responsible...for the highest crimes against humanity in the highest courts in the world," Tony Hall, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations food agencies, told reporters.
His words were principally directed at Zambia, which has banned GM food, and to some extent Zimbabwe, where he said red tape was delaying food shipments although it had in principle accepted aid.
He said up to 15 million people were facing food shortages in southern Africa.
Hall, who recently visited Zimbabwe and Malawi, said he was in Brussels to press the European Union to step up efforts to avert the looming famine.
He called on the EU to do more to persuade southern African countries that GM food was safe.
"The EU has made some great statements (on the safety of GM food), at the same time there are people who have thrown a lot of doubts, who have been neutral," he said.
"We cannot be neutral on this issue...We need strong statements. We are beyond this discussion (on GM) here."
The EU's approach to genetically modified foods has been wary, partly due to consumer fears about safety.
The bloc has refused to license any GM strains for use in the EU since 1998 pending regulations aimed at ensuring consumers can avoid GM foods if they wish.
EU environment ministers will hold talks on the issue next week which could open the way for such goods to be more easily imported and produced.
Hall said the EU should also boost efforts to help southern Africa by increasing financial and food contributions.
How the US violates the Food Aid Convention
The US is a signatory of the 1999 Food Aid Convention, which recognises that food aid should be bought from the most cost effective source, be culturally acceptable and if possible purchased locally so that regional markets do not suffer. Despite this...
The US is refusing southern African governments loans that are not tied to the purchase of GM contaminated grain from the US.
The US says it is impossible for it to provide anything other than GM contaminated grain in spite of the fact that many US elevators can and do segregate GM and non-GM grains and some only take non-GM grain.
The US refuses to mill the GM grain even though African countries facing famine have requested this
The US boasts that "The principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States"
The US introduced Public Law 480 to ensure that food aid never interfered with "domestic production or marketing"
USAID also states one of its roles is to "integrate GM into local food systems."
George Bush has increased the US aid budget specifically for the purpose of encouraging the uptake of biotechnology. Earlier this year, USAID launched a $100m programme for bringing biotechnology to developing countries. USAID's "training" and "awareness raising programmes" will, its website reveals, provide companies such as "Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto" with opportunities for "technology transfer". Monsanto, in turn, provides financial support for USAID.
According to Noam Chomsky, if the principles that underlay the Nuremburg trials had continued to be enforced, the leader of every US administration since World War 2 would have had to be hanged.
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