ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

22 November 2002


Agencies Pushing Govt to Accept GM Foods Have Turned Down Invitation
The Post, Zambia, by Speedwell Mupuchi
Nov 17, 2002

Key international agencies pushing government to accept genetically  modified food have turned down an invitation by Consumer International to a  workshop on biotechnology to explain their positions. At a press briefing  yesterday at Chrismar Hotel in Lusaka, Consumer International regional  director Amadou Kanoute named the organisations as the Food and Agriculture  Organisation (FAO), United States Agency for International Development  (USAID), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Union.

Kanoute said he was disappointed by the organisations' response as there  was no need of being secretive when such issues arise. "We extended an  invitation to key players and these have decided not to attend our meeting.  This is a question of accountability," Kanoute said. He explained that they  had invited the organisations so that as major players in the current  debate on genetically modified foods, they could explain their positions to  ensure consumers were given freedom of choice.

Kanoute said there was no miracle seed to solve problems African farmers  were facing. He said hunger on the continent has multiple fathers and that  asking farmers to buy genetically modified seeds every year would not solve  the problem.

"When there are droughts, there is no miracle seed to solve that, when  there is mismanagement, there is no miracle seed to solve that," he said.  Kanoute said his organisation was concerned with the impact of genetic  engineering and its effects on the environment.

He said genetically modified foods should be clearly labelled to enable  consumers choose whether to take them or not. "People should be given  choice on the type of products they want. I am a Moslem and I am not  supposed to eat pork.

But if I find tomatoes genetically modified using genes from a pig,  ethically the company that produces the tomatoes needs to provide that  information," he explained. Kanoute said food security was linked to a  healthy environment and water. He said every nation should strive to pay  attention to these.

And in an interview, Zambia Consumer Association executive secretary  Muyunda Ililonga said the Zambian government had taken the right step as a  sovereign country to reject genetically modified foods. "It had taken an  international principle. If there is no conclusive evidence that the food  is safe, it is better not to take it," he said. Ililonga noted there were  groups of people exaggerating the hunger situation in the country.

He said whereas there were areas facing critical food shortages, Zambia was  not in a position where people were starving to death as there were a lot  of locally grown products that could be used to feed the population.  Ililonga, however, suggested that a long term solution to the country's  food security situation lies on the government reviving food processing.  The workshop on biotechnology opens on Monday in Lusaka with 50  participants from 23 African countries.

It was earlier scheduled for South Africa but the venue had to change  following the Zambian government's stand on GMO. Consumer International  represents 260 consumer organisations in 120 countries of the world and has  observer status on the United Nations.

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