ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
19 October 2002

ROW GROWS OVER GM FOOD AID FOR AFRICA

"To date, there is not a single human-subject study that demonstrates the safety of GM food, and the Mexican experience in which local varieties of maize were contaminated speaks to the need for caution. This whole affair isn't about science, though. The GM lobby know better than most that control over the food system is all about politics." - Dr Peter Rosset

"The tragedy is that while these well monied types [the GM lobbyists] try to filibuster the democratic process in Zambia, people are starving. And there's safe food in the region which USAID will not buy, because it doesn't support U.S. business, and doesn't involve loans from the World Bank" - Dr. Raj Patel

Note bene that in item 2 the reported criticism of Jean Zeigler, a UN special investigator for food, is directly attributed only to an unnamed "senior international humanitarian aid official"!

1. BIOTECH INDUSTRY LOBBY GROUP ATTACKS ZAMBIAN PRO-FOOD-RIGHTS GROUP
2. Row grows over GM food aid for Africa, as 14 million starve
3. How the US violates the Food Aid Convention

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1. BIOTECH INDUSTRY LOBBY GROUP ATTACKS ZAMBIAN PRO-FOOD-RIGHTS GROUP

October 15, 2002
Food First Press Release
Oakland, Calif.

In response to the pending Zambian government decision over whether to accept genetically modified food, a group of scientists allied to the biotechnology industry have attacked Zambian civil society.

In a report entitled "To Die or Not to Die" and distributed through the AgBioWorld website, the scientists aim to rebut a document produced by a group of Jesuits in Zambia, who have been examining the science and politics of GM food supply and its potentially devastating impact on Zambian agriculture. Their document supports the Zambian government's decision to bar GM food aid from that country.

"There seem to be no depths to which the biotech industry will not sink," said Dr. Peter Rosset, co-director of Food First. "This is over-credentialed and underhanded. And it's not like they're forthcoming with scientific evidence that GM food is safe for people or for local crop varieties. To date, there is not a single human-subject study that demonstrates the safety of GM food, and the Mexican experience in which local varieties of maize were contaminated speaks to the need for caution. This whole affair isn't about science, though. The GM lobby know better than most that control over the food system is all about politics."

At present, over 14 million people are in danger of starvation in Southern Africa. Despite the availability of food in the region, food aid policy continues to ignore the root cause of famine - poverty. The United States has been shipping surplus genetically modified food to the region as aid.

The Zambian government has so far refused to accept the grain, choosing instead to purchase lower-quality non-modified grain locally. This threatens the interests both of large-scale agricultural corporations in the U.S., who receive over $1 billion in contracts in food aid, as well as challenging the life sciences industry.

"Any threats to U.S. corporations are, it seems, threats to the U.S. government," said Anuradha Mittal, co-director of Food First. "They're so worried that at the end of last month, Colin Powell asked the Vatican to intervene in the Zambian government's deliberations. The latest line of attack is this shameful report."

The report has been signed by a range of beneficiaries of food industry funding. The authors include Greg Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute - funded by Philip Morris and Dow Chemicals among others and Channapatna S. Prakash, long-time pro-GM campaigner.

"The tragedy is that while these well monied types try to filibuster the democratic process in Zambia, people are starving. And there's safe food in the region which USAID will not buy, because it doesn't support U.S. business, and doesn't involve loans from the World Bank" said Dr. Raj Patel, policy analyst at Food First. "The AgBioWorld herd even turned to the bible to justify their position. Perhaps they ought to have read Proverbs 22:7: The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."

[for more information on the position of the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre and Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection
http://www.jctr.org.zm/gmos.htm

for more on the "scientists" behind this attack:
http://ngin.tripod.com/161002b.htm]

***

2. Row grows over GM food aid for Africa, as 14 million starve

By Leonard Doyle, Foreign Editor
The Independent, 19 October 2002
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/environment/story.jsp?story=343953

A United Nations human rights envoy has been accused of endangering efforts to save 14 million people from starvation after he questioned the safety of genetically modified food destined for southern Africa.

Jean Ziegler, a UN special investigator for food, claimed that big corporations had more to gain from the use of GM food in the developing world than the poor countries that were trying to fight starvation.

"I'm against the theory of the multinational corporations who say if you are against hunger you must be for genetically modified organisms. That's wrong," Mr Ziegler said this week. "There is plenty of natural, normal, good food in the world to nourish the double of humanity."

Mr Ziegler's role is to report on the world food situation to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva and the UN General Assembly in New York. But his remarks have caused outrage in the international aid community, which is struggling to feed millions of hungry people in six southern African countries.

Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are all affected by spreading famine. Several countries, including Zimbabwe, initially rejected GM food aid but in the face of a pending calamity have reluctantly begun to distribute it. However, in Zambia, where people are now dying of hunger and from eating poisonous wild roots, the government has refused to allow GM food aid from Canada and the United States to be distributed.

The countries fear that seeds from GM crops will contaminate their own crops and harm their export potential.

A senior international humanitarian aid official described Mr Ziegler's position as "morally bankrupt" yesterday.

"It is outrageous that someone who claims to be working for human rights should be campaigning against the most basic human right ? the right to food," the official said.

A spokeswoman for Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, said she had no comment on Mr Ziegler's remarks, but that it was up to the individual countries to decide whether they should accept food aid containing GM produce.

Mr Ziegler maintains that the advice of the World Health Organisation, which says GM food is safe to eat, is flawed. The position non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which warn that people are at risk if they consume GM food over a period of time, should be accepted instead. "All the nutritionists, the highly qualified biologists at these NGOs say there is a risk for the human body over the long term," he told journalists. "They say we have not reached a security level and I believe them."

Health questions aside, Mr Ziegler said farmers accepting GM seeds would be forced to continue buying them "for ever" from big biotechnology corporations.

"There is absolutely no justification to produce genetically modified food except the profit motive and the domination of the multinational corporations," said Mr Ziegler, a Swiss former socialist MP.

Emergency aid officials say that the UN provides food aid to the hungry, some of which might contain some GMOs and some of which doesn't. The policy is that the food will be distributed as long as it meets the health standards of the donor country, Canada and the US for the most part, and is acceptable to the recipient country.

They maintain that there is no scientific evidence that the GM food is harmful. Such food is already consumed by hundreds of millions of people across Western Europe and North America.

In southern Africa, Zambia is most at risk of famine, but the government of President Levy Mwanawasa also denies that people are dying of hunger. The President has instead ordered police to arrest MPs from Southern Province who claim that people there are dying of hunger.

Two weeks ago, hungry villagers in south-eastern Zambia raided their local chief's storehouse and took away maize supplies which the government said could not be distributed.  The villagers, including women and children, said they were dying of starvation and took 2,000 bags of the banned maize for their families. The maize came from GM seeds.

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3. How the US violates the Food Aid Convention

The US is a signatory of the 1999 Food Aid Convention, which recognises that food aid should be bought from the most cost effective source, be culturally acceptable and if possible purchased locally so that regional markets do not suffer. Despite this...

*The US is refusing southern African governments loans that are not tied to the purchase of GM contaminated grain from the US.
*The US says it is impossible for it to provide anything other than GM contaminated grain in spite of the fact that 50% of US elevators can and do segregate GM and non-GM grains
*The US refuses to mill the GM grain even though African countries facing famine have requested this
*The US boasts that "The principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States"
*The US introduced Public Law 480 to ensure that food aid never interfered with "domestic production or marketing"
*USAID also states one of its roles is to "integrate GM into local food systems."
 


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