ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

1 June 2002


Zimbabwe: farmers threatened by GE maize aid

Industry propagandists have tried to exploit concern over GE contamination of food aid to paint consumer and environmental concern as a barrier to helping the hungry. In reality it is the biotech industry that is the source of the difficulties.

The terrible complexity created by the introduction of GE crops is well illustrated by the Mexican maize scandal where a moratorium on GE maize, introduced several years ago by the Mexican government, has been powerless to prevent contamination of native crops.

And Zimbabwe, where one estimate is that nearly a quarter of its people are facing hunger, has now been forced into a terrible dilemma by the US offloading as "aid" its hard to sell GE maize*.

As the article below notes, "Agricultural experts here said the rejection of the maize should not be viewed as a petulant act by the Mugabe government. The country's farmers feel that GM kernels could threaten Zimbabwe's production of hybrid maize." (item 1 below) Zimbabwe's non-GM maize is "noted for its suitability for a hot growing season", quite apart from the problems contamination of its maize crop would pose for export.

Just how calculating the Bush administration is in its exploitation of aid to promote the interests of the biotech industry can be seen its recent request for an increase in the budget of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to "help developing countries adopt biotechnology".

Yet as many in the countries in question and aid agencies like Christian Aid point out biotechnology strikes a blow at the very basis of food security, "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 security."
[Christain Aid report, "Biotechnology and GMOs"]

* In 1999 US corn exports to Europe dropped by 96% because the US could not provide non-GM corn. And the problems are far from confined to Europe:

"Early this week I worked my way through about 100 country reports from the USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS)...  If you think that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) aren't on every country's hot list, think again. From Poland to Korea to Australia to Mexico, GMOs are getting hit with consumer demonstrations, academic studies, government food labeling orders and outright bans."
[Anti-GMO sentiments thrive overseas
Dale McDonald, Rooster News Network -- October 26, 2001]


Starving Zimbabwe shuns offer of GM maize

Andrew Meldrum in Harare
The Guardian, Saturday June 1, 2002,2763,725926,00.html
Gripped by severe food shortages, with a potentially vast famine looming, the Zimbabwean authorities have rejected a US government donation of 10,000 tonnes of maize, worth $6m, because it has not been certified as free from genetic modification.

But the decision was not yet another example of President Robert Mugabe protesting at western imperialism. It was taken to protect Zimbabwe's own crop and its ability to export certified hybrid maize seed throughout Africa.

Despite widespread hunger, Zimbabwe refused the shipment of maize because it came in the form of whole kernels, which, if used as seed, could spread GM strains across the country.

As there are also food shortages in nearby countries, the delivery was diverted to Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi.

"Zimbabwe did not waive its requirement that entering commodities must be certified as entirely non-GM" or not of genetically modified origin, the embassy said.

Agricultural experts here said the rejection of the maize should not be viewed as a petulant act by the Mugabe government. The country's farmers feel that GM kernels could threaten Zimbabwe's production of hybrid maize.

If Zimbabwe's maize were altered by GM crops planted nearby, it could lose its certification. A non-GM product, noted for its suitability for a hot growing season, it would then be barred from export.

Shipments of US maize in the form of fine-ground meal cannot be used as seed, and have therefore been gladly accepted by Zimbabwe.

The US-funded Famine Early Warning System Network estimates nearly a quarter of Zimbabwe's 12.5m people are facing hunger.

That number is expected to grow in the coming months to 7m, according to a study by the United Nations World Food Programme.
31 May 2002 - Zimbabwe turns away U.S. food consignment (AP)
"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. It is an insult of the highest and most grotesque order to turn those who live from day to day into the centerpiece of an elaborate lie.  ...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."
Michael Manville - Welcome to the Spin Machine

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