ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

4 August 2002


The original marketing of GM crops without any public consultation, their release into the food supply without adequate testing, the failure to routinely segregate or label, are leading to a horrific dilemma for the nations of Southern Africa now faced with rapidly dwindling food stocks but anxious to protect their agricultural future.

There is still choice, however, and there is still responsibility - if the US is willing to exercise it. As Robert Schubert, editor of CropChoice, an alternative news source for American farmers, has pointed out:

"Consider a 2001 American Corn Growers Association ( survey of elevators in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and seven other major corn producing states. More than 100 reported that they required segregation of genetically engineered varieties.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that only about 30 percent of the domestic crop was genetically modified. That means about 70 percent wasn't.

Our leaders could take that conventional corn 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."

1. Zimbabwe reconsiders GM grain
2. GM corn cobs to Zimbabwe
3. Africa can do without GM agriculture
4. Who Needs GM Foods?


1. Zimbabwe reconsiders GM grain
Friday, 2 August, 2002, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK

Zimbabwe's Government will accept 20,000 tonnes of food aid to feed hungry Zimbabweans,  according to United States officials.

A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Harare, Heather Lippitt, told the UN information  network, IRIN, that she understood it was on the condition that the maize was milled before being imported.

She said a series of meetings had been held since Monday to discuss who could mill the maize and where.

Two months ago, Zimbabwe, stricken by a food shortage, rejected a US maize consignment  because it was not certified as free of genetically modified organisms.

Fears have been expressed that, if any GM maize is planted, it could contaminate crops making it harder for African farmers to export their products - especially to Europe.

There have been suspicions that the American Government is pursuing a commercial goal of  seeking to promote the spread of GM food.

Famine fear

Once the bread basket of the southern African region, Zimbabwe now needs food aid after drought and the invasion of white-owned farms slashed output of maize, the staple food.

Aid agencies say somewhere between four to six million people will need food aid this year.

The US Agency for International Development (USAid) gave the country a1 August deadline to take the 20,000 tonnes of maize.

And USAID official Roger Winter warned that Zimbabwe could suffer from a famine by September if the government continued to refuse the food aid.

He dismissed safety fears about the food, saying it was being eaten in the United States every day.

GM fears

A number of Zimbabwe's neighbours have also been concerned about passing on GM maize to their people.

While Malawi says it has no choice but to accept GM maize, Mozambique, where Malawi's food aid has to pass through, has asked the World Food Programme to cover it with plastic sheeting to avoid spillage while in transit.

In Zambia, President Levy Mwanawasa has said his government will have to examine donated GM food and establish its safety first before giving it to the hungry.

Lesotho and Swaziland have been accepting GM maize.

At least 14 million people in southern Africa are facing starvation after two years of floods and drought in the region.

And the UN World Food Programme is deeply concerned about the level of response to its appeal for aid.

A month ago the agency launched a drive for $570m to help people in southern Africa survive until the harvest next year. But so far less than a quarter of that has been raised,

Bad policies have also been blamed for the food shortages and there is a fear that this may have played a part in the poor response from traditional donors.


2. Aug 2 - GM corn cobs to Zimbabwe

A report on the BBC World Service this morning [about 5.00 am BST] described how American food aid is presenting problems to Southern Africa... The maize being sent to Zimbabwe is GM maize. It is being sent in the form of whole cobs - so that if distributed, some will certainly be planted or allowed to grow. It will introduce uncontrolled GM pollution of the subsequent local maize crops [remember the reports on this happening in S. America?].

The solution would be for the maize to be milled before it is sent. The US government finds the cost [about $20 per ton] too high for them. To put the cost into perspective an American University professor cited the cost of a single bomb dropped on Afghanistan as a comparison. The same professor commented that America, the source of the greatest volume of food aid, was using the food aid to further its own interests...


3. Africa can do without GM agriculture

Andrew Taynton
Business Report (South Africa), August 02 2002

Thank you for the balanced and informative report on genetically modified crops "GM food debate rages amid starvation" (Business Report, August 1).

It is important to remember there are many non-GM agricultural systems that are proving to be more effective in Africa to establish food security.

In Kenya small-scale farmers are using low-cost organic methods to increase yields by between 60 percent and 70 percent. Ethiopia has just produced a food surplus for seven years in a row without GM crops.

Water harvesting and methods to preserve moisture in the soil help overcome drought conditions.

Many independent scientists and commentators have pointed out Florence Wambugu from Kenya has a long historical association with the giant transnational seed company, Monsanto.

This company goes to great lengths to promote its patented GM seed, even when there are more suitable Third World farming methods available.

While the rest of Africa has generally taken a cautious approach to GM technology in agriculture, the South African government seems to be bent on promoting it at all costs.

This is despite disappearing markets for GM crops and the many other problems they have caused both farmers and food manufacturers.


4. Who Needs GM Foods?
The Post (Lusaka), OPINION, August 2, 2002
Owen Sichone

By now it should be clear that President Mwanawasa is a nationalist. In a neocolonial setting like ours that sounds like a good thing but in the globalised arena of international politics today it is a dangerous position.

Zambians must not rush to applaud Mwanawasa's speeches if they are not prepared for struggle because much of what he has said up to now be it on corruption, privatisation or GM crops indicates war against globalisation's worst dangers and it will not make him popular overseas.

I still remember the other chap asking Zambians in his first speech after being sworn in: 'Are you ready for hard work?' and they all responded with a big yes. A few months later most of them were unemployed. Let us not rush to applaud our leaders but ask for a full report first.

Zambians are right to be hesitant about receiving GM maize from abroad. Let us not forget that in the past we were also unhappy with yellow maize. If we know what we want to eat we must grow it ourselves.

The Japanese do not eat American rice and when they are forced to import some they donate it to poor countries. Instead Japanese farmers are supported by the state so that they can continue to grow their traditional fragrant varieties of rice. You cannot make good Chinese or Indian food with tasteless long grain American rice - it is impossible.
The question then is can Zambia, a beggar nation that it is, afford to choose?

Can we throw away the yellow maize? We can if we are willing to go back to 'Growth from Own Resources' approach that our government has long abandoned. But who is going to implement it? What is the fuss about GM crops for anyway? First of all we live in a high risk world. The British beef you ate in London a few years ago might give you Mad Cow disease.

The cheap frozen chicken you buy from America may be so full of growth hormones and other profit making pollutants that you might find yourself having emotional, physical and other side effects and passing them on to the next generation. Just recently Swedish science announced that fried foods, especially potatoes may contribute to making people vulnerable to cancer.

So you see life is dangerous in a capitalist world and there are those who are so concerned with just getting a meal that they sell themselves. Can such people worry about yellow maize or GM foods? I think many Zambians are already beyond caring. But that is not to say they cannot reverse the slide into dependency.

Mwanawasa's opposition to GM foods appears to me to be based on religious teaching rather than science but I hasten to add that it is the sensible way forward in my view. Israelis prefer organic farming to genetic modification in the name of plant breeding and most readers of the Judaic teachings would agree that GM foods are NOT kosher.

In short they are an abomination in the sight of God. If you do not want  to eat things that are displeasing to God then grow the good stuff. You cannot invest your time in searching for salaula bargains in different parts of the world and expect that someone will feed you according to biblical teachings.

GM foods are not peasant crops they are designed to make the companies that own the patents for particular genes super rich. They will not solve the hunger problem which has always been about access and not availability. Nobody knows how the grandchildren of the people who eat GM soya or GM maize will be affected. Nobody knows how the genes will be carried with the pollen in the wind and affect other varieties. So why take the risk?

>Zambia is one of the world's 'underpolluted' countries (except for pockets of industrial production) and we should focus on producing organic foods for that is where we would enjoy an advantage. Organic farming is labour intensive, healthy and produces foods that fetch high prices on the world market.

A consumer anywhere in the world should be presented with a choice  between organically grown Zambian tomato and nuclear power packed long life tomato with viagra and multi-vitamins added. I have no doubt that most will choose the Zambian tomato to be on the safe side.

Those who like taking risks or are too poor to care will go for the  American one. Zambians cannot compete in the field of GM technology but they can produce herbal pesticides and compost as well as anybody else. We have enough peasant farmers to do the job competitively if only they were not weighed down by the unfair subsidies that the aristocratic and thoroughly inefficient EU farmers and US Food-engineering corporations  receive.

I am sure Zambians know that the taste of a village chicken surpasses  anything that the American chemical industry has mass produced. It is not by accident that Americans are battling against obesity today, they have been eating fatty pork and fatty chicken with a residue of growth hormones and other chemicals. Let us eat what the Bible told us to eat  and we will not regret it.

Let us go 'back to the land' and grow our own food. If we are not able to  do that then let us shut up and enjoy the stock-feed maize and non-kosher meats that the Europeans and Americans are offering us.


Food stocks are running out across Southern Africa


'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

'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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