Wide support at African conference for refusing GM maize (25/4/2004)

Zambia and Zimbabwe's earlier refusal to accept GM maize from the US... was widely supported by some of the world and continent's greatest scientific minds.

GM food under scrutiny
South African Broadcasting Corporation, March 30, 2004

Scientists from 20, mostly African, countries gathered under the umbrella of the Africa Genome Initiative in Cairo, Egypt, to look at the future health of Africa.

The debate around the health risks posed by genetically modified foods received a lot of attention. No decision was made over whether GM-foods are healthy or not but delegates agreed that more research is nessasary. They say governements should insist on independent risk assesment studies before they decide to import GM food.

The scientists gathered at the Mena House conference centre, at the foot of the pyramids in Giza, Cairo, to look at the implications of modern day science on the lives and well being of the continents' people. One of the liveliest debates at the conference focused on genetically modified foods, including the risks involved in importing maize from the US.

In many quarters of the world Zambia and Zimbabwe's earlier refusal to accept GM maize from the US were strongly criticised but at this conference their decision was widely supported by some of the world and continent's greatest scientific minds.

The first person to introduce the topic was Arpad Pusztai - who has been collaborating in a Norwegian Research programme into GM-Foods since 2001. He says there is no scientific evidence that proves the safety of GM-food and its irresponsible to assume that it is fine.

He reminded fellow delegates that science is not based on assumptions and that the pro-GM lobby's approach does not take some of the most basic science principiles into account. Pusztai says it is shocking that people are allowed to eat GM food even though there is very little research published on it.

Many scientists at the conference agreed with Pusztai that there is a need for independent risk assessment studies before developing countries decide to import a product like GM maize into their countries. In many developing countries maize is a staple food, which means it makes up the bulk of people's diets. Pusztai says this is very different in the US where processed maize is consumed occasionally.

One delegate from Sudan says his government was forced to import GM maize because of the famine and as a scientist he agreed with their decision. He was supported by Amr Karim, the director of Ain Shams University's Genetic Engineering Unit in Egypt.

"Food aid programmes have historically been used inappropriately with industrialised countries using them to dispose of surpluses and create food dependencies. Such abuse continues today." Oxfam, Oxfam condemns the distribution of food aid contaminated with GMOs http://ngin.tripod.com/forcefeed.htm  

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