"It's wicked, when there is such an excess of non-GM food
aid available, for GM to be forced on countries for reasons of GM politics...
if there is an area where anger needs to be harnessed it is here."
UK Environment Minister, Michael Meacher, speaking at a briefing of British parliamentarians, November 27, 2002
"[UK Prime Minister] Blair's chief scientific adviser denounced the United States' attempts to force the technology into Africa as a 'massive human experiment'. In a scathing attack on President Bush's administration, Professor David King also questioned the morality of the US's desire to flood genetically modified foods into African countries, where people are already facing starvation in the coming months." The Observer, UK, Sep 1, 2002
"..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
The countries of Southern Africa are in the midst of a devastating crisis in which as many as 14 million people in the region are at risk of starvation.
The U.S. has the ability to supply non-GM food but has declined to do so even though several African governments, including Zambia, have made repeated requests. USAID has dismissed their concerns as "ideological" while an unnamed US state department official recently said, "beggars can't be choosers."
But eating GM or starving is a false dilemma. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of non-GM grain are available, both in America and elsewhere, and it should be sent to where it's needed most. Instead the Bush Administration is exploiting famine in Africa in an effort to support America's biotech industry.
It's just the latest twist in a long and cynical marketing
campaign and it's one to which not only African countries are objecting.
In early 2003 India officially refused GM food aid from the US citing environmental,
human and animal health considerations.
a Reuters headline, July 26, 2002
On the 29th October 2002 the Government of Zambia announced that it had decided not to reverse its earlier rejection of GM food aid "in view of the current scientific uncertainty surrounding the issue".
Agence France Presse HEADLINE: US denounces Zambia's refusal to accept genetically modified food aid DATELINE: WASHINGTON, October 30th, 2002
The US at once made it clear that it would only provide aid to Zambia if its decision on GM food aid was reversed. More astonishingly, it also became clear that UN agencies dominated by the US had made no move to remedy the situation since the Zambian Government first formally announced its rejection of GM food aid back in June.
The reason for the dangerous delay? According to a report in Afrol News:
"Only now, further supplies of food aid had been ordered, "expected to arrive in Zambia in December." UN agencies had been expecting a change in government mind until the last moment. The decision not to order non-GM food aid until now has been observed as direct pressure against the Zambian government." ("Continued pressure against Zambia on GM food", 30th October 2002)
By December 2002 US frustration with Zambia had reached such a point that the US Ambassador to the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies was quoted by Reuters as calling for African leaders who rejected genetically engineered food aid from the U.S. to be tried "for the highest crimes against humanity in the highest courts of the world."' (Reuters News Service, December 9) http://ngin.tripod.com/180103a.htm
In January 2003 US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick claimed the European Union (EU) was to blame and that it had threatened Zambia with sanctions if it accepted the GM grain. This claim appeared in a series of articles in the U.S. press. According to Knight Ridder columnist Paul Driessen in the Sun Herald, for instance, "environmental radicals and the European Union are screaming "genetic pollution" and threatening to withdraw aid and ban agricultural exports from any countries that plant or distribute the [GM] grains."
In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, denying that either the EU or member states had ever made their aid for African countries contingent on those nations banning GM crops, EU Trade Commissioner Lamy stated, "We very much regret that US officials are peddling this rumor". Lamy also accused the US of using its foreign aid programme as a means to "dispose of its genetically modified crop surpluses. The simple solution is for the US to behave as a real aid donor," he said. http://ngin.tripod.com/220103e.htm
The EU Trade Commissioner was also quoted by Dow Jones International News: "The fact that (the US) made this link is very simply immoral" and he once again accused the US of using its foreign aid programme as a means to "dispose of its genetically modified crop surpluses." http://www.just-food.com/news_detail.asp?art=52895
European Development Commissioner Poul Nielson waded in with, "This very negative lie has been circulated and repeated recently by [US Trade Representative] Robert Zoellick." Nielson told reporters he wanted to propose a deal to the Americans which would create a more normal situation. "The deal would be this: if the Americans would stop lying about us, we would stop telling the truth about them." http://ngin.tripod.com/200103d.htm
EU trade commissioner Lamy also hit out in an interview
with Newsweek: "Zambia is a sovereign country and makes its own decisions.
Zambians do not need to be heroic to assert their sovereignty... GM-free
A story in quotations...
"Two leading international environment and development
groups accused the US yesterday of manipulating the southern African food
crisis to benefit their GM food interests and of using the UN to distribute
domestic food surpluses which could not otherwise find a market... Greenpeace
and Actionaid also accused the US government's overseas aid body [USAID]
of offering only GM food when conventional foods were available."
US 'dumping unsold GM food on Africa', The Guardian, October 7, 2002
"Whilst getting food to hungry people is paramount, the
threat of starvation should not be used as a bargaining chip for the introduction
of GM technology. African governments and civil society organisations have
raised legitimate concerns about GM. They worry about its safety for health
and the environment, how it is controlled and by whom and about the impact
of GM on the future livelihoods of their citizens. These concerns
should be addressed, not ridden over roughshod."
Donald Mavunduse, ActionAid's Emergencies Programme Adviser
ACTIONAID SPEAKS OUT ON GM FOOD AID
"Zambian Vice President Enock Kavindele told Reuters in
Lusaka that his country had declined a $50 million (31 million pounds)
line of credit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of provisions
that it would have to purchase GMO commodities."
Eat GM or starve, America tells Africa, Reuters, July 26, 2002
"This looks like morbid folly, like a dangerous game played
with the lives of starving people for political gain. This is precisely
true. The US government has been playing this game for well over a decade;
the famine in Southern Africa provides merely the latest instalment."
Dr Raj Patel, Another Poisoned Chalice in Africa
"The US says it cannot provide guaranteed GM-free maize
[to governments requesting it in Southern Africa] because there is no requirement
in place to separate GM and non-GM grains in the US. Strange that a 2001
American Corn Growers Association survey showed that more than 50% of
US elevators can and do segregate GM and non-GM grains. The US
position is one of choice, not necessity."
"BETTER DEAD THAN GM FED?" by GRAIN (‘Seedling’, October 2002)
Between now and March, southern Africa will need up to
2m tonnes of emergency food aid grain. The UN's Food and Agriculture
Organisation says there are 1.16m tonnes of exportable non-GM maize in
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa. Europe, Brazil, India and
China have surpluses running into many tens of millions of tonnes. Even
in the US, more than 50% of the harvest has been kept GM-free. As Guardian
columnist George Monbiot has commented, "All the starving people in southern
Africa, Ethiopia and the world's other hungry regions could be fed without
the use of a single genetically modified grain."
"Our leaders could take that conventional corn [the 50%
of US corn that is non-GM] and donate it to African people facing hunger.
And just in case some genetically modified characteristics slipped in,
our government should mill the corn. That would fairly well avoid any possibility
of destroying the Africans' export markets the way ours were destroyed
by trying to force biotech corn onto countries that don't want it."
Robert Schubert, CropChoice editor, "Offer African countries the non-biotech corn"
"If the aid agencies had cash rather than maize they could
resolve the crisis without touching GM, said Guy Scott, a former Zambian
agriculture minister. 'But it is the official policy of USAid (the
US agency for international development) to promote GM."
Zambians starve as food aid lies rejected, The Guardian , Thursday October 17, 2002
The USAID website candidly 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."
Download the Greenpeace report on USAID and GM food aid
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...
"It is important to get prior consent from a country rather
than imposing GE contaminated food grain on a nation."
Dr Lewanika, a scientific advisor to the Zambian government
"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.' "
"The hope of the industry is that over time the market
is so flooded [with GMOs] that there's nothing you can do about it. You
just sort of surrender."
Don Westfall, biotech industry consultant and vice-president of Promar International, Toronto Star, January 9 2001
"If the US insists on imposing this genetically modified
maize on our people, we will be justified in questioning their motive."
Editorial, Dignity in hunger, The Post, Zambia, July 30, 2002
"It is unconscionable that the U.S. administration would
use the threat of mass starvation as means to promote products that potentially
carry a wide range of health and environmental risks... Yet all some folks
in the U.S. government and business communities can think of is how to
make even more money off their suffering,"
James Clancy, president of Canada's National Union of Public and General Employees
"NUPGE condemns famine exploitation to sell GM foods", NUPGE, October 9 2002
"The USA wants to see its corporations control life's
most basic resources, including seeds, food crops and water. Unfortunately
for southern Africa, the drought plays right into this unprincipled strategy."
Dr. Lawrence J. Goodwin of The Africa Faith & Justice Network, a USA-based NGO comprised of Catholic religious and social justice groups, quoted in AFJN DENOUNCES IMPOSING GM FOOD AID ON AFRICA
The New Scientist has revealed that food aid has been GM contaminated for years - a fact kept secret from recipient nations until now. James Morris of the US-dominated World Food Programme has admitted the agency has been responsible for shipping GM Food Aid without consent. "The World Food Program has been distributing food with some biotech content in Africa and around the world for seven years, " he said in an article in the International Herald Tribune clearly intended to counter the impact of the New Scientist revelations.
In addition, 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. http://www.foe.org/foodaid/
Oxfam is among the aid agencies that have called for food aid to be kept GM free
"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 GMOs in food aid.
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."
Oxfam International has also noted:
- 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.
The latest twist in a long and cynical marketing campaign...
'Aid is the last unregulated export market open to US
farmers as worried European and Asian consumers shun GM grain and introduce
strict import and labelling rules'
'America finds ready market for GM food - the hungry', by Declan Walsh (The Independent, 30 March 2000)
'Food assistance has enabled the allocation of products
which could not have been exported in the absence of concessional financing
and subsequently has allowed total North American exports to increase."
North American Congress Research Services in a report to Congress, April 1994
"Countries in the grip of a crisis... should not be faced
with a dilemma between allowing a million people to starve to death and
allowing their genetic pool to be polluted".
Dr Tewolde Gebre Egziabher of Ethiopia, quoted in 'America finds ready market for GM food - the hungry', by Declan Walsh (The Independent, 30 March 2000)
"Consumption of Genetically Modified (GM) maize must not
be allowed into the country until a policy and legislation are in place,
National Farmers Union (ZNFU) acting president Ajay Vashee has said."
Don't Allow GM Maize in Absence of Policy - ZNFU, The Post (Lusaka), October 16, 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, a USA-based NGO comprised of Catholic religious and social justice groups
"It is highly unethical not to just cover the costs for
milling. 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
"The IMF told our government to sell off all of our grain
reserves to help make loan payments... Hasn't anyone ever heard the story
in the Bible of Joseph saving up grain for the coming famine in Egypt?
Now our people are facing real hunger. I have come to South Africa to find
work. And that work is now, ironically, to unload GE food relief from ships
from America. Malawi will have no choice but to accept GE foods now. When
people are desperate, they will accept anything - a dictator, food, sterilization
- you name it."
Siswe Nbele, a Malawian dockworker, quoted in 'Frankenfoods create furor on Dark Continent'
WorldNetDaily, US, October 10, 2002
"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 (Washington Post, August 2 2002)
"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
"The Zambian government has so far refused to accept the
grain... 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. "
Food First Press Release, October 15, 2002
"There is absolutely no justification to produce genetically
modified food except the profit motive and the domination of the multinational
U.N. human rights envoy and special investigator on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, commenting on the food aid crisis
U.N. food envoy questions safety of gene crops (Reuters, 15 Oct 2002)
the GM lobby and the food aid crisis
"all some folks in the U.S. government and business communities can think of is how to make even more money off [Africa's] suffering," - James Clancy, president of Canada's National Union of Public and General Employees
For some the situation in southern Africa is not just a tragedy, it's an opportunity - an opportunity to dump otherwise unmarketable GM crop surpluses, an opportunity to create future food dependencies, and above all an opportunity to introduce GMOs to countries that would otherwise be resistant to them and which are ill prepared to deal with the consequences.
The resistance to such opportunism in turn provides the biotech industry and its supporters, in the US administration and beyond, with an additional opportunity - the opportunity to pressurise international bodies - from the European Union to the World Health Organisation to the Vatican - to endorse GMOs and join its arm-twisting of reluctant nations.
"We have been pushed around by the way the Americans have
put pressure on this issue."
Another target has been the biotech industry's critics, both in Africa and elsewhere, who have been portrayed as the merchants of death for having raised concerns over GM food.
At the "Earth Summit" in Johannesburg in September 2002, African delegates expressed their anger at "the emotional blackmail of vulnerable people" that was going on.
"We, African Civil Society groups, participants to the
World Summit on Sustainable Development, composed of more than 45 African
countries, join hands with the Zambian and Zimbabwean governments and their
people in rejecting GE contaminated food for our starving brothers and
sisters: We refuse to be used as the dumping ground for contaminated food,
rejected by the Northern countries; and we are enraged by the emotional
blackmail of vulnerable people in need, being used in this way.
But African civil society and governmental protests were countered by an attack on the Zambian government by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell who was booed by official delegates when he referred to the need to accept GM maize.
But it wasn't only Powell who was on the attack at the "Earth Summit". According to Roger Bate (a pro-GM lobbyist who has been shown to draw financial support from the tobacco industry):
"One of the more interesting aspects of the debate was
that the most fervent pro-GM attack on the Zambian President did not come
from the biotech industry but from the head of the aid agency that sent
the food. Andrew Natsios is the Director of the US Agency for International
Development [USAID]. And he was easily the most effective proponent
of the technology at, and after, the WSSD."
USAID's fervently pro-GM stance was no accident. Promoting GM is an official part of the role assigned to an agency which publicly boasts of how its activities create major markets for America's agricultural exports. (Download the Greenpeace report on USAID and GM food aid)
Aid agencies outside the US generally take a very different view:
"The UN confirms there is enough non-GM food in southern
Africa and on world markets... The US should [untie its aid] and stop
putting a GM gun to the head of hungry Zambians."
But it's not just been resistance in Africa that the GM lobby has been gunning for.
"[Bernd Halling, of the biotech industry's umbrella group
says that the green lobby has 'built up this GMO issue to the point that
it is illogical. [The famine in Africa] is the first issue that has
the ability to destroy their credibility… I want to know if they are
going to accept responsibility for the people that will die as a result
of the refusal of GM aid', said Halling."
Juan Lopez, of Friends of the Earth International who
attended the Earth Summit dismisses such claims, "Clearly African leaders
are looking at the information available and deciding for themselves what
action to take. The idea that advocacy groups critical of biotechnology
are leading African officials to reject genetically engineered crops is
ridiculous. The biotech industry has 50 lobbyists for every environmental
In the forefront of the lobbyists' attacks has been the
Foundation headed by Prof CS Prakash of Tuskegee University, USA.
AgBioWorld has worked flat out to label the industry's critics as 'killers'
of the hungry. Unmentioned is the fact that as well as being a GM lobbyist,
is also an advisor to USAID while his university enjoys multi-million dollar
contracts with the agency.
Prakash also, according to a series
of newspaper articles in The Guardian and elsewhere,
works hand in glove
with Monsanto's PR operatives who use his listserv to initiate attacks
on the company's critics.
AgBioWorld's co-founder is Gregory Conko, Director
of Food Safety Policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute -
an organisation described by PR Watch as "a well funded corporate front".
GM firm Dow Chemicals is amongst its corporate donors, as is the US tobacco
and food giant, Philip Morris. Needless to say, the CEI opposes restrictions
on smoking just as vociferously as it does those on GM foods.
But AgBioWorld presents its campaigning as that of a group of disinterested scientists. Thus, as part of its attack on a Zambian Catholic group with concerns about GM food aid, AgBioWorld issued a report said to be authored by "a group of scholars". As well as Prakash and Conko, the "scholars" included Andrew Apel, the editor of a biotech industry newsletter, who has called on the US to bomb Zambia with its GM grain if it continues to reject it. On a discussion list Apel wrote of the crisis, "I can almost picture the darkies laying down their lives for the vacuous ideals... their death throes, how picturesque, among the baobab trees and the lions!" http://ngin.tripod.com/161002b.htm
for Theological Reflection and Jesuit-run Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre
AgBioWorld also issued a press release calling on "activist organizations to formally endorse food aid shipments and to not repeat the mistakes of Orissa." The press release implied that thousands had died in the Indian state of Orissa as a result of resistance to GM contaminated food aid. Such claims are a fabrication, as Indian food and trade policy analyst, Devinder Sharma has pointed out. The deaths in Orissa were caused by a super-cyclone and were totally unconnected with the controversy over US food aid . (For more on AgBioWorld's PR work during the crisis in Southern Africa: http://ngin.tripod.com/161002b.htm)
The deceit and lies of the GM lobby serve only to distract attention from the urgent need to resolve the problems in Southern Africa and get some of the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of non-GM grain that's available to where it's most needed.
"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"
If people do die because of the US/USAID stance, no one should be in any doubt as to how the GM lobby will try and exploit it. The AgBioWorld spin over "Orissa" makes that all too plain. As does Monsanto's spin of the AgBioworld attack on Catholic groups in Zambia which it headlined as, "Academics Say Africans Going Hungry Because of Activist Scare Tactics".
Similarly, EuropaBio's assessment of the food aid crisis as "the first issue that has the ability to destroy their (the critics) credibility", provides the rationale for the demand that the industry's critics "accept responsibility for the people that will die as a result of the refusal of GM aid". And the same unsavoury sense of anticipation seems present in AgBioWorld supporter, Andrew Apel's comments about "darkies laying down their lives" and "picturesque" death throes".
"There are 800 million hungry people in the world; 34,000
children starve to death every day. There are those who consider this a
tragedy, and then there are the biotech companies and their countless PR
firms, who seem to consider it a flawless hook for product branding...
the companies who make [GE foods], and the flacks who hawk their falsehoods,
offer us a new definition of depravity, a new standard to plunge for in
our race to care least, want more, and divest ourselves of all shame."
a long and cynical campaign...
"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 of Food First, BIOTECH INDUSTRY LOBBY GROUP ATTACKS ZAMBIAN PRO-FOOD-RIGHTS GROUP
"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)
"At the height of the 1974 famine in the newly born Bangladesh,
the US had withheld 2.2 million tonnes of food aid to 'ensure that it abandoned
plans to try Pakistani war criminals'. And a year later, when Bangladesh
was faced with severe monsoons and imminent floods, the then US Ambassador
to Bangladesh made it abundantly clear that the US probably could not commit
food aid because of Bangladesh's policy of exporting jute to Cuba. And
by the time Bangladesh succumbed to the American pressure, and stopped
jute exports to Cuba, the food aid in transit was 'too late for famine
victims'. Food was then a political weapon. Food aid has now in addition
become a commercial enterprise."
Devinder Sharma, Famine as commerce: Africa's tragedy, AgBioIndia 6 August 2002
FIND OUT MORE - READ THE ARTICLE: "BETTER DEAD THAN GM FED?"
The problems go wider than food aid...
"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: ‘GM by the back door’
"Biotechnology and GM crops are taking us down a dangerous
road, creating the classic conditions for hunger, poverty and even famine.
Ownership and control concentrated in too few hands and a food supply based
on too few varieties of crops planted widely are the worst option for food
Christian Aid report: "Biotechnology and GMOs"
FIND OUT MORE - READ THE REPORT:
or Fooling the World - Can GM really feed the hungry?'
download (as a pdf file) the Five Year Freeze's new report (October 2002)
more quotes on GMOs and the Third World
feeding the world