ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

17 August 2002


"Oxfam stresses the need to guarantee human health and biodiversity, and respect the social and cultural context of food aid recipient countries, and urges governments and FAO to develop and implement food aid standards that prevent the distribution of GMO's in food aid." (item below)

'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, Harl [Neil E. Harl, a professor of economics at Iowa State University] said: "I'm not sure that is going too far." ' Starved for Food, Zimbabwe Rejects U.S. Biotech Corn, Washington Post, July 31 2002

'If these crops get in, then farmers basically lose their rights to their own agricultural resources'  Carole Collins, senior policy analyst for the Washington-based Africa Faith and Justice Network

Not so long ago, NGIN wrote that nobody wants to see hungry people left to starve and nobody is suggesting to the people of Southern Africa that they should refuse aid. What people are concerned about is evidence that the dilemma that countries like Zambia are facing may be one of the US's making with, for instance, governments being told that US financial assistance is conditional on loans being used specifically to purchase GM grain.

Zambia rejects this and is appealing to the rich world for money to buy "the ordinary food that the people in Zambia normally eat." An unnamed US State Department official is said to have commented on their predicament that, "Beggars can't be choosers."(Washington Post, August 2 2002)

The recklessness with which the aid issue is being dealt with is also reflected in the fact that test results in a series of countries have shown that not only have GM foods unapproved in recipient countries been turning up in food aid, but so too have GMOs that have not been approved even in donor countries like the US:

The following Oxfam press release from earlier this summer emphasises how the concerns over the issue of the manipulation of food aid to forward commercial and other agendas relating to GMOs pre-existed the current crisis in Southern Africa.

Nobody should underestimate the severity of that crisis. Any continued attempt to exploit it for commercial advantage will be unforgivable.

Food stocks are running out across Southern Africa



Oxfam condemns the distribution of food aid contaminated with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

ROME: June 12, 2002: Oxfam supports the concerns expressed by a number of its partners who demand a moratorium on GMOs and the improved enforcement of monitoring systems to stop GMOs from entering vulnerable populations through food aid.

Food aid distributed by USAID recently tested positive for carrying StarLink, a genetically-modified variety of corn not authorised for human consumption anywhere in the world dueto its potential to affects human health.

The test was initiated by a coalition of organisations including Centro Humboldt and Friends of the Earth International, and conducted by Genetic ID, an independent laboratory located in Iowa, USA. StarLink is banned in the US.

Oxfam International is seriously concerned by these findings for the following reasons:

- 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.

- Genetically modified food aid may have negative effects for human health and livelihoods, and therefore it is counterproductive to its declared objectives.

- Introducing GMO’s through food aid may have adverse effects on biodiversity, since part of it is used as seeds, contaminating local species.

- As such, food aid containing GMOs is in contradiction with the precautionary principle, secured in the Carthagena Biosafety Protocol .

Oxfam stresses the need to guarantee human health and biodiversity, and respect the social and cultural context of food aid recipient countries, and urges governments and FAO to develop and implement food aid standards that prevent the distribution of GMO’s in food aid.

The Oxfam International delegation at the World Food Summit:

Thierry Kesteloot, Oxfam Solidarite - mobile phone ++ 33 339 632 9794
Fernando Almansa López, Intermon Oxfam - mobile phone 00 34 626 992 056
Maria Lidon, Intermon Oxfam - mobile phone 00 34 615 569 225
Rian Fokker, Novib
Michelle Beveridge, Oxfam Canada


'Africa is merely a pawn in this global game of chess. By forcing Southern African governments to take a decision on GM foods, a precedent will be set. The next time round, US corporations will roll out their grand plan for agricultural rejuvenation in Africa founded on GM-based production. African governments will be hard-pressed to resist given that they have subverted their own policies in the face of a food crisis.

'If sufficient regions adopt this mode of production, the US will have created a group of like-minded countries to help it lobby against EU policies at trade negotiations. The US is interested in the EU market because this is where money is to be made, not in Africa.

'The strategy also goes beyond GM food. A platform will be created where new biotech products can find their way into the world markets. Biotechnology is regarded as the US's strategic industry for the 21st century. The game now is to ensure that markets are opened so that investment in the industry over the past 30 years can begin to reap benefits.' Saliem Fakir, director, IUCN (World Conservation Union) South Africa office

'Food is power. We use it to change behavior. Some may call that bribery. We do not apologize'  Catherine Bertini, Executive Director of the World Food Program

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