10 October 2002
ZAMBIANS DENY FAMINE DEATHS WHILE US LOBBIES THE VATICAN
In pursuing its acknowledgd role of assisting US agribiz*, USAID under Natsios, its ferociously pro-GM director, and the Bush administration have refused to respond to the requests of the Zambian government for loans that are not tied to the purchase of GM food. As Action Aid recently reported there is more than ample non-GM grain available locally for purchase. But instead of offering concrete assistance to resolve the issue, the US has sought to intensify the pressure on the Zambians and other southern African countries to accept GM - at the moment they're reportedly busy lobbying the Vatican to join the international arm-twisting.
The administration and the biotech industry clearly see the crisis not only as a useful source of leverage for opening new markets but as providing a useful marketing opportunity, in terms of pressing for public statements of support for Gm foods from internationally recognised bodies. They also clearly hope it will put their critics on the back foot by feeding the US media with stories such as "Europeans are helping to aggravate famine in Africa" (International Herald Tribune, Sept. 3).
But while the US, together with USAID and via its control of the World Food Programme, is busily serving the needs of Cargill/Monsanto rather than the hungry, there are disturbing reports coming out of Zambia of people starting to die of hunger. The Zambian authorities say these reports are politically motivated but are launching an official investigation. If the reports prove to be true, then the role in this tragedy of the US, USAID, and USAID's advisor CS Prakash whose activities have repeatedly been shown to be linked to Monsanto's PR operations (see item 2), must be brought fully into the spotlight.
*"The principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States. Close to 80% of the USAID contracts and grants go directly to American firms. Foreign assistance programs have helped create major markets for agricultural goods..." - the USAID website
1. Zambians deny famine deaths
2. USAID's agenda and the Prakash connection
1. Zambians deny famine deaths
Lusaka - Zambian authorities have sent a police contingent to the country's Southern Province to investigate reports of people dying of hunger and from eating poisonous wild roots.
The country's national food and nutritional commission also confirmed that pellagra, a disease caused by a nutritional deficiency, had broken out in the province.
Last week, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa dismissed reports of starvation and ordered police to arrest members of parliament from the Southern Province who claimed people in their constituencies were dying of hunger.
Mwanawasa said the legislators' statements were casting the government in bad light and inciting the public against his administration.
An opposition member of parliament for the Moomba constituency, Vitalis Mooya, has since challenged police to arrest him if his statement is false that three elderly women died of hunger in his constituency.
Reports of people eating dog meat and others dying after eating toxic wild roots, which have to be boiled for eight hours before they are safe to eat, have increased in the past weeks.
The government is under increasing pressure to accept the genetically altered maize donated by foreign governments to help stem the food crisis.
Looted food-storage sheds
The Mwanawasa administration categorically rejected food aid of genetically modified products, citing health risks.
However, two weeks ago, hungry villagers in Monze, 180km south of the capital, Lusaka, looted the banned genetically modified maize from World Food Programme storage sheds.
Meanwhile, millers have warned that maize meal prices could rise again, further beyond the reach of many consumers. They appealed to the government to consider subsidising imported grain to cushion the effect.
Zambia is one of the hardest-hit by the food crisis in six southern African states, partly due to severe drought.
Other countries affected are Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.
About two million ton of food aid are needed to meet the minimum emergency food needs of the more than 15 million people in the sub-region now facing potential famine.
The drought running for two farming seasons resulted in poor crop yields and devastated livestock, leading to wide-spread hunger. - Sapa-DPA
2. USAID's agenda and the Prakash connection
excerpt from USAID and GM Food Aid, October 2002
While the Bush Administration claims that its offer of food aid to Africa is motivated by altruism, the USAID website is a little more candid. It states: "The principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States. Close to 80% of the USAID contracts and grants go directly to American firms. Foreign assistance programs have helped create major markets for agricultural goods, created new markets for American industrial exports and meant hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans."
Aside from the US GM corporations which will benefit from the creation of "major markets for agricultural goods," and US agriculture which benefits from this deliberate subsidy, specified beneficiaries of USAID relief in the USA include:
* Tuskegee University, home of high-profile GM advocate Professor CS Prakash - benefited to the tune of over $5.5 million from USAID contracts.
...Professor CS Prakash - High-profile GM enthusiast Professor CS Prakash is an official USAID advisor. Professor Prakash is the Director of the Centre for Plant Biotechnology at Tuskegee University, Alabama. The University has been funded to the tune of $5.5 million by USAID. In addition, the US Department of Agriculture "recently signed an agreement with Sub Saharan African countries and Tuskegee University to facilitate technology transfer related to agricultural biotechnology."xlv
Professor Prakash also runs a pro-GM website, AgBioWorld. The AgBioWorld
website is said to be hosted [actually, to have been technically designed
and partially hosted - NGIN] by the PR agency Bivings Woodell, whose clients
include Monsanto. [for more on this see:
"Dodgy industries selling dubious wares have long headed for the Third World when their activities have been questioned in the West. The biotech industry has been following this well-trodden path ever since consumers in Europe turned against GM food and crops. And these wares have had unprecedented backing from the US government, which has relentlessly bullied reluctant governments in developing countries to accept them." - Independent on Sunday, Leading Article: ŒGM by the back door‚ http://ngin.tripod.com/160902a.htm
"..there is no shortage of non-GMO foods which could be offered to Zambia by public and private donors. To a large extent, this 'crisis' has been manufactured (might I say, 'engineered') by those looking for a
new source of traction in the evolving global debate over agricultural
biotechnology. To use the needs of Zambians to score 'political points'
on behalf of biotechnology strikes many as unethical and indeed shameless.
" - Dr Chuck Benbrook, a leading US agronomist and former Executive Director
of the Board on Agriculture for the US National Academy of Sciences
"A delegate from Nigeria congratulated Zambia for taking a courageous
stand, criticised the CGIAR for [GE] research that harms Africa, and called
for African unity. The delegate from Ethiopia, Million Belay... condemned
the World Food Programme for "selling the interest of only one country",
the United States." - Africa Unites Against GM‚ ISIS
"If the US insists on imposing this genetically modified maize on our
people, we will be justified in questioning their motive." Editoria, Dignity
in hunger, The Post, Zambia, July 30, 2002
"Asked if people were going 'too far' by saying that gene-altered humanitarian
exports were part of a strategy to spread the crops around the world, [Neil
E. Harl, a professor of economics at Iowa State University] said: 'I'm
not sure that is going too far.' "
"We have been pushed around by the way the Americans have put pressure
on this issue." EU development commissioner, Poul Nielson on the US food
"These governments have screwed up and are looking for someone to blame."
Andrew Bennett, Monsanto's head biotechnologist in Johannesburg
Against the grain, The Weekend Australian, August 31, 2002
"Tell me how much it costs to drop one bomb on Afghanistan. Who is starving
whom here?" Carol Thompson, a political economist at Northern Arizona University
"...[African] government subsidies on maize production have been discontinued
under pressure from the World Trade Organization [but] it now seems that
it's OK for the starving here to eat subsidised maize, just as long as
it is GM and grown in America."
Andrew Clegg, Windhoek, Namibia in a letter to New Scientist
"Beggars can't be choosers." A State Department official, commenting
on southern African nations' resistance to accepting shipments of US food
aid containing genetically engineered ingredients
ngin bulletin archive