Zambia refuses GM foods (21/6/2004)


The following article provides a very partial account of the GM food aid crisis in southern Africa - for the real story of what occurred: http://ngin.tripod.com/forcefeed.htm

As Dr Raj Patel commented on the crisis at the time, "This looks like morbid folly, like a dangerous game played with the lives of starving people for political gain. This is precisely true. The US government has been playing this game for well over a decade; the famine in Southern Africa provides merely the latest instalment." http://ngin.tripod.com/forcefeed.htm

Zambia refuses GM foods
21/06/2004 18:57  - (SA)

Lusaka - Zambia has maintained that it will not allow genetically modified foods to enter its territory despite shortages, as biotech foods are not yet scientifically proved to be suitable for human consumption.

Chance Kabaghe, deputy agriculture minister, said genetically modified food has been banned from being distributed in the poor country, which is largely dependent on Western food aid.

"The position of Zambia on GM foods has not changed. We still feel that the country is not ready to accept genetically modified foods without proper research on its effects" Kabaghe said.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa told delegates at the UN Earth Summit in Johannesburg in September 2002, that despite starvation, he would not expose his people to "poisonous" food.

"Simply because my people are hungry, there is no justification to give them poison, to give them food that is intrinsically dangerous to their health" he said at the time.

During 2002, Zambia rejected about 27 000 tons of transgenic food aid donated by the US government to feed nearly one quarter of Zambia's population of 10.4 million people, who were struggling to cope with hunger caused by a prolonged drought.

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) in Zambia, responsible for relief food aid distribution, said the lesson learnt from the GM controversy was that countries should have an up-date policy on biotech food on file.

"WFP's job is to ensure that the hungry get food and it works within the parameters set up by the national government. It is not for us to say whether a government's decision is justified or not as long as people do not go hungry," said Sibi Lawson, a WFP spokesperson in Zambia.

By the time Mwanawasa announced the ban on the GM foods, some transgenic grain had already been distributed to various parts of the country to the poor.

The withdrawal of the food caused sporadic riots and Zambia's Agriculture Minister Mundia Sikatana accused western donors of "promoting food riots in order to force Zambia to accept GM maize."

The WFP withdrew the GM food aid and replaced it with non-GM relief food that was donated mainly by the European Union, which stepped in to help thousands of starving Zambians.

"WFP policy is to respect the position of the country it is working in" Lawson said.

"If the country prefers no GM food, we do not send in GM food. Additionally, we only accept food that has been cleared by the health authorities of the donor country as fit for human consumption" she said.

Edited by Anthea Jonathan

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