Angola Rejection Of GM Food Row / Uganda stirs GM anxiety (29/3/2004)

With regard to the first item, Robert Vint of Genetic Food Alert points out that while the Dow Jones article refers to a "surprise decision by Angola" to reject GM-contaminated food aid, Angola originally expressed concerns about such aid some two years ago - when Zambia expressed its concerns.

The article also talks about the difficulties  caused by rejection of the "19,000-ton shipment of U.S. maize" but fails to mention that if cash instead of tied aid were provided, as happens with most major donors other than the US, then Angola could simply buy part of Zambia's current 100,000 ton surplus - and thereby boost the regional agricultural economy.

1.Angola Rejection Of GM Food Threatens To Disrupt Food Aid
2.Uganda's decision on GM stirs anxiety among EAC members
3.Quotes from force-feeding the world

1.Angola Rejection Of GM Food Threatens To Disrupt Food Aid
Dow Jones Newswires

JOHANNESBURG (AP)--A surprise decision by Angola to reject genetically modified food aid threatens to disrupt distributions to 1.9 vulnerable people - many of them newly returned after the country's two-decade civil war - the U.N. food agency said Monday.

The decision, announced by Angola's Council of Ministers on March 17, comes at a time when the World Food Program is already battling funding shortfalls for its program in the oil-rich southern African country.

U.N. officials are currently in discussions with Angolan authorities to determine the implications for a 19,000-ton shipment of U.S. maize that had been earmarked for the country. If there is no clarity by Wednesday, the U.S. could redirect the maize to another country, officials said.

Angola, a nation of about 14 million people, was ruined by the war pitting the government against UNITA rebels. Up to a half-million Angolans fled their country before it ended in 2002. The fighting also drove some 4 million people from their homes within the country.

Some 3.8 million have now returned to their rural homes, but about 1.5 million remain dependent on food aid, according to WFP figures.

Despite pressing needs, Angola is struggling to compete for funds with other aid-dependent countries.

Donors have privately questioned the government's commitment to resolving humanitarian problems in a country where one in every four dollars in oil earnings is unaccounted for, according to anti-corruption activists.

So far, WFP has only been able to raise 24% of the $143 million it needs for the year beginning April 1, the agency's regional director, Mike Sackett, said in Johannesburg.

Next month, it will be forced to reduce its cereal rations by 30%, he said. If no new donors are found by June, they will be cut again to 50%.

"The GM question is, I think, a further blow to the achievements of the objectives set out by WFP in Angola," Sackett said.

Details of the ban, which does not apply to milled grain, remain unclear, and the decision has not yet been officially implemented.

But it could have major implications for Angola, which receives up to 77% of its food aid from the U.S. American biotech companies have been at the forefront of promoting genetically modified food, or GMOs, which can be made to resist insects or disease.

Europe, however, has imposed a moratorium on growing or importing GMOs because of fears about the environmental and heath risks.

African countries such as Zambia and Zimbabwe have also rejected biotech food aid.

WFP respects their wishes, Sackett said. But importing milled grain is more expensive, and it can take months to source alternatives, he said.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires
March 29, 2004 11:39 ET (16:39 GMT)

2.Uganda's decision on GM stirs anxiety among EAC members
Standard Reporter
Financial standard, March 30th

Landlocked Uganda's recent decision to allow the import and consumption of Genetically Modified (GM) foods is likely to cause disputes with neighbours Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

The announcement came as a shock to the Eastern Africa region, and among Ugandan farmers who banked on President Yoweri Museveni’s word last year that Uganda was not going to allow the import of GM crops soon.

The president’s assurance came in the wake of a whirlwind tour of Africa by US president George Bush last year in which it was reported that Museveni had assured his American peer that the country would open up its borders to US GM products.

Exporters of organic-grown foods fear that the introduction of genetically modified organisms to Uganda could endanger their business.

While giving assurance, the Ugandan-based daily New Vision quoted Museveni saying: "Sometimes science tries to answer problems that are not there. My Ankole cows have naturally marbled fat within the meat and are low in cholesterol — is that not what the scientists are searching for these days?

"Why do we need to incorporate iron into rice, when we eat millet, which is naturally high in iron, we can grow as tall as the Southern Sudanese, millet eating tribes."

He was assuring John Magnay of Uganda Grain Traders Ltd who had led a delegation fearing that the Museveni would allow importation of GM crops.

Another Ugandan paper The Monitor had quoted Magnay voicing concerns that the regional grain marketing opportunities "are on the increase and the presence of GMOs within our grain stocks would seriously threaten our ability to sell grains within these markets. Europe is another major market for our produce. They also don’t wish to buy crops contaminated by GMOs".

The Managing Director of AMFRI Farms Ltd, a leading Ugandan exporter of organic produce, Mr Amin Shivji, had been quoted saying: "We are worried. We (Ugandans) are trying to accept the GMO. If Uganda goes GMO it will be very hard to keep in business."

In response to concerns raised in Uganda parliament last year, the Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, Ms Mary Mugyenyi, was reported saying: "The exercise is being handled by the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology. The rules will go through Cabinet and Parliament. We therefore cannot have or accept GMO seeds before the relevant laws are in force."

The farmers and MPs, concerns were valid because Uganda is currently the fourth largest producer of organic fruit in the world. More than half of the land in Uganda is organic.

The decision to import GM food will not only impoverish Ugandan organic farmers whose produce will encounter a suspicious market (all arguments for and against GM products have yet to be resolved), but will also bring a sharp focus into how the ports of Mombasa in Kenya, Uganda’s main imports conduit, and Dar es Salaam will deal with transit of the GM crops.

Kenya is yet to put into place a bio-safety regulation that could legislate how Uganda could import its GM foods.

Pollution, or cross-pollination of plants, is one of the main fears of GM foods. It has already been scientifically proven that GM crops grown in certain fields can be transported by wind, water, birds or animals to other far distant places thus contaminating organic farms.

Uganda insists its GM imports will only be for consumption, not planting. Previously sustenance farmers have planted these crops in the belief that the grains would become better seeds thus exposing other farms to contamination.

Kenya already grows GM crops in strictly controlled field trials in various Kenya Agricultural Research Institute trial farms.

3.Quotes from "Force-feeding the world"

"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

Dr Wilma Salgado, a former consultant to the World Food Programme in Ecuador points out that US food assistance to Ecuador has nearly wiped out the country's local production of wheat and rendered it dependent on wheat imports from the US, thus threatening its food security while creating a market for US exports. Dr Salgado writes, "The injustice called "food assistance" constitutes yet another example of the so common double language used by the United States for its economic interests. "Food assistance" in reality is a support to its own farmers to expand their market, just as the strongly promoted "free trade" in third countries has enabled them to expand their (US) market. At the same time the US has increased its non-tariff barriers to limit the import of products that could compete on the US market." Dr Wilma Salgado, Food assistance or export assistance? (translated from Spanish)

"I have heard . . . that people may become dependent on us for food. I know that was not supposed to be good news. To me that was good news, because before people can do anything they have got to eat. And if you are looking for a way to get people to lean on you and to be dependent on you, in terms of their cooperation with you, it seems to me that food dependence would be terrific." Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, in naming US Public Law 480 which ensures that food aid never interferes with "domestic production or marketing"  (Wall Street Journal, May 7, 1982)  


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