ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

18 January 2003


Here again is the big lie: "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."

That's from an article in the U.S. paper The Sun Herald (see item 2), which went out at the top of Prakash's pro-GM AgBioView list on Thursday, and it is just the latest variant of a lie turning up repeatedly in the U.S. media.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy lays the peddling of this lie about European threats, firmly at the door of the U.S. administration. Denying that either the EU or individual member states have ever made their aid for African countries contingent on those nations banning GM crops, Lamy states, "We very much regret that U.S. officials are peddling this rumor, and even more that you gave credence to it without checking with the EU." (item 1)

The irony is, of course, that the threats have come from the U.S. Remember the infamous Reuters headline, "Eat GM or starve, America tells Africa"? As Alex Wijeratna of the development charity ActionAid has commented, "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 the success of the U.S's strategy of defining GM crop concerns around the world as mere collateral in a EU-U.S. dispute is reflected in an article in The Guardian (London) this week on the food aid crisis. Under the headline, "Starving Africa caught in the middle of GM food debate", the article informs us that, "Africa has been drawn into the increasingly bitter dispute between the United States and the European Union over the safety of genetically modified (GM) food crops." (item 3)

Yet the concerns being expressed in southern Africa today are the same as those expressed there over many years. As long ago as 1998 delegates from 20 African countries to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN on Plant Genetic Resources, in a joint statement of concern, described genetic engineering as "a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us" and went on to say, "we think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millenia and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves."

Compare the concerns in this pan-African statement with Donald Mavunduse of ActionAid's summing up of current African concerns. Mavunduse says, "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."

On Thursday organisations from all around the world sent a joint statement to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agencies to 'deplore your inflammatory remarks (Reuters News Service, December 9) suggesting that African leaders who reject genetically engineered food aid should be tried "for the highest crimes against humanity in the highest courts of the world." ' (item 4)

Meanwhile, India's recent official refusal of GM food aid from the U.S. (item 5) reinforces the fact that this is an issue of global concern and not, as some in the U.S. would have us believe, just the bubbling over of a Northern trade dispute.

2.Lies in the U.S. press
3.Starving Africa caught in the middle of GM food debate
4.Dear Ambassador Hall...



January 17, 2003
Reuters [via Agnet]

WASHINGTON - In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy was cited as denying that either the EU or individual member states made their aid for African countries contingent on those nations banning genetically modified crops, stating, "We very much regret that U.S. officials are peddling this rumor, and even more that you gave credence to it without checking with the EU."

The story says that the letter responded to a recent WSJ opinion piece praising U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick for his criticism of Europe's "immoral" stance on genetically modified crops.

It was also signed by EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler, Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Poul Nielsen, Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne, Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom and External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten.

Lamy was further cited as denying the EU has used its influence to persuade African nations not to accept genetically modified crops, adding, "The EU has never suggested to African governments that GM (genetically modified) foods are unsafe -- in fact, we made available to them our scientific research for the GM varieties we have approved. Neither has it said that GM should not be allowed into their countries."


2.Lies in the U.S. press
Modern Activism 101
The Center for Consumer Freedom, 16th January 2003

Today's "affluent activists" are "condemning the world's poor to lives of squalor," says Knight Ridder columnist Paul Driessen in Tuesday's Biloxi (MS) Sun Herald. Driessen argues that modern activism's focus on "corporate social responsibility" programs, so-called "sustainable development" policies, and the much-maligned  "precautionary principle" are rooted in "socialist agendas."

„The U.S. has shipped African countries thousands of tons of genetically modified corn,‰ Driessen writes. „The same corn that Americans have been eating safely for years. But environmental radicals and the European Union are screaming Œgenetic pollution‚ and threatening to withdraw aid and ban agricultural exports from any countries that plant or distribute the grains.‰

"It's time to ask the eco-activists, bureaucrats and media elites," he concludes, "exactly how their anti-energy, anti-biotech and anti-people policies are moral, compassionate, sustainable or socially responsible."


3.Starving Africa caught in the middle of GM food debate

John Madeley
The Guardian

AFRICA HAS BEEN drawn into the increasingly bitter  dispute between the United States and the European Union  over the safety of genetically modified (GM) food crops.

 The US, whose huge agricultural businesses are in the  vanguard of the technology and where products containing GM  foods - particularly soya and corn - are widely available  on shop shelves, holds that food produced from GM crops is  no different from any other and does not require it to be  specially labelled. But EU countries are insisting on them  being labelled so consumers know what they are buying.

 Since the mid-1990s, the EU has imposed a moratorium on  the import of GM foods, infuriating the US, which claims  that this is in breach of trading agreements and  discriminates against American farmers who, the US  authorities say, have lost more than US$ 200 million (HK$  1.5 billion) in corn sales.

The Bush administration was  urged last month by angry senators representing farm states  to lodge a formal complaint against the EU with the World  Trade Organisation. The unexpected African twist to the  dispute has emerged more recently, as serious drought and  food shortages ravage nations in the south of the continent. Last June, it became clear that about 14 million people in  the region - chiefly in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and  Zimbabwe - needed food aid. An appeal for donors was  launched through the Rome-based World Food Programme, which  co- ordinates food aid efforts. The US Department of  Agriculture responded by offering Zambia US$ 50 million on  condition that it, effectively, used the money to buy GM  foods. It said it could not provide GM-free corn because  there is no requirement in the US to separate GM and non-GM  foods. The government of Zambia, where three million people  - 30 per cent of the population - are in danger of  starvation, declined the offer because of fears about GM  food safety. There was also concern that farmers could have  used the corn as seed, resulting in the contamination of  non-GM crop varieties and, thus, establishing GM crops in  Africa and farmers' dependency on US companies for seed.

 Observers say this outcome could have compromised future  agricultural exports to the EU. Promises by aid agencies to  make sure only ready-ground corn came in failed to sway the  decision-makers in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.

 Environmentalists strongly opposed to GM foods and anti  -globalisation activists are suspicious as to whether US  generosity was simply a way of using food aid to try to  force GM food on Zambia and open the African door to its  agricultural companies. Almost 80 per cent of the contracts  and grants of the US aid agency USAid go directly to  American firms. Critics say that the world has plenty of  non-GM food that Zambia could buy with the money the US  offered. "There is no shortage of non-GM foods which could  be offered to Zambia by public and private donors," said  Chuck Benbrook, a leading US agronomist.

But in Washington, David Hegwood, counsel to the US Secretary of Agriculture, hit back, saying EU policies against GM food were  having a devastating impact on African nations that have refused US  food aid for fear of GM crops. "The fears of Europe are  keeping food out of the mouths of hungry people in Africa,"  he said. And the American envoy to UN food agencies, Tony  Hall, said leaders who denied their people food should be  put on trial. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has supported  the right of African nations to ban GM foods because,  despite American assurances, many feel there is still a big  question mark over their safety. Fears over contamination  remain the most potent. Research just published in Britain  casts serious doubt on whether GM crops can be grown without contaminating non-GM varieties and also raises the  possibility of "superweeds" developing that are immune to  herbicides. Last month, EU agriculture ministers agreed on  new rules that require labels on GM foods containing 0.9  per cent or more of GM ingredients. The EU's moratorium on  GM food imports will be lifted when the labelling becomes  law. As there is no segregation of GM from non-GM in the  US, it could prove very difficult for US exporters to  comply.


4.From: Kristin Dawkins

January 13, 2003

Ambassador Tony Hall
US Mission to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture
PSC 59 Box 31
APO, AE  09624

Dear Ambassador Hall,

Enclosed please find a letter addressed to you from 52 organizations and 45 individuals from 31 countries around the world.

I will be happy to circulate your reply to all of them, if you would kindly send it to me by email <> or post:

Kristin Dawkins, Vice President for International Programs
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
2105 First Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404
January 16, 2003

TO: Tony Hall
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agencies

Dear Ambassador Hall,

We the undersigned citizens of many countries on every continent deplore your inflammatory remarks (Reuters News Service, December 9) suggesting that African leaders who reject genetically engineered food aid should be tried "for the highest crimes against humanity in the highest courts of the world." This reckless comment reeks of hypocrisy and bad political judgment and has no legal basis in international law. It serves only to further damage the reputation of the U.S. government already suffering for its unilateral, aggressive and abusive foreign policy. An apology is in order.

The U.S. has never supported the highest court in the world, the U.N.-sponsored International Criminal Court. To the contrary, it sought to prevent its existence and since its establishment in July 2002, the U.S. has used intense diplomatic pressure to weaken its implementation by other countries. To invoke this institution now in challenging Zambia and other African nations over their sovereign right to reject foods that European countries and many others have similarly rejected is utterly disingenuous.

In fact, the only country depriving Africans of much-needed food relief is the U.S., when it insists that its donation of $51 million be spent ONLY for U.S.-sourced grains. The purchase of non-genetically engineered food from other African countries, Brazil, China, Hungary, Russia and other regions as yet free of genetic contamination would readily alleviate the impending famines and at the same time stimulate agricultural productivity and economic development in these regions. In fact, some 70% of all corn produced in the U.S. is still not genetically engineered - so you could even procure what the Africans prefer from the U.S.'s own farmers, if that were the objective.

You criticize African leaders for protecting their people, while our government sends food aid containing StarLinkTM, a variety of genetically engineered corn that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved for human consumption in this country. Perhaps the U.S. should be tried for this crime against humanity.

Why should Zambians be expected to eat food that Americans, Europeans and others will not? Why should any people be expected to eat food that has not been adequately tested by the manufacturers or the U.S. government for safety in humans, especially if this untested food will comprise two-thirds of their daily caloric intake? Why should Zambians ingest genetically engineered corn that may affect the stomach lining and cause allergies, and contains an antibiotic-resistant gene - when their immune systems are already weakened by malnutrition?

Your crude remarks seem intended to divert attention from a far more troubling issue: the political reasons that the U.S. government is foisting genetically modified corn on people in need around the world, not just in drought-stricken  Africa, when supplies of conventional grain are available. The U.S. has a corn surplus here, because genetically engineered foods are rejected in many commercial markets. Do you also propose that the leaders of these countries be tried for high crimes against the U.S.?

A cynical food aid strategy that dumps unsaleable corn in vulnerable communities relieves the U.S. of these burdensome stocks while giving Monsanto and other biotechnology companies a boost by destroying competing sources of non-genetically engineered grains from the world marketplace.  Mr. Hall, you have sacrificed a fine reputation as an advocate for the hungry to serve Monsanto and the rest of the biotechnology industry that has captured the voice of the Bush Administration's White House.

Zambian President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa invoked the sovereign rights of governments to protect their citizens. He said that foods untested for human consumption posed "a danger to the lives of citizens" and that the import represented an immediate possible threat of "contaminating local indigenous and hybrid seed stocks" needed to reconstruct the region's agricultural capacity and food security. His view is shared by more than 100 other governments around the world that have signed the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Convention on Biological Diversity  both international treaties negotiated under auspices of the United Nations.

It is also shared by those of us signing this letter below on behalf of 52 organizations and 45 individuals from 31 countries. Are we also to be tried for high crimes?



Cc:     U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
        U.S. Undersecretary of State Alan Larson
        U.S. AID Administrator Andrew Nations
        U.N. FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf
        U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Jaime Mello Viera
        U.N. High Commissioner's Office Special Advisor on Food Jean Ziegler


Note: Affiliations following an individual's name do not necessarily imply organizational endorsement.

Australian Greens
GE-Free Bathurst

Zakir Md. Hossain, Krisok Krisoker Saar (Farmers' Voice)
Shaila Shahid, Krisok Krisoker Saar (Farmers' Voice)

AS-PTA (Assistance and Services to Project on Alternative Agriculture)
Karla Matos

Jean Arnold
Kelly Senkiw

Jan Holm Ingemann, PhD., Head of Department, Agricultural Economics, Aalborg

Pedro de la Cruz, President, FENOCIN

Anne-Marie Kibongui, Editions Cultures Croisées

Solidarische Welt e.V Gießen
Alexandra Burmann
Britta Steffenhagen, German League for Nature and Environment

The ZHABA Collective

Sankalp Navbharat
Sunray Harvesters
Women's Centre, Bombay

Sintesa Foundation

AMAB-Associazione Mediterranea Agricoltura Biologica
La Leva di Archimede (Association for Freedom of Choice)
Ludo Goossens, cicm, Missionaries of Scheut

Food Policy Center Vision21

The Centre for Advocacy on Legal Ethics and Human Rights Issues (CALER)

Green Liberty

Areli Carreón , Red de Comunicación de Morelos


Earthlife Namibia

Iza Kruszewska, ANPED
W. de Lange, XminY Solidarityfunds
Alexander de Roo, MEP Greens/EFA
Jelle Schöttelndreier

New Zealand
GE Free New Zealand
GE Free Northland
Claire Bleakley, GE Free (Wairarapa)

Centro de Información y Servicios de Asesoria en Salud
Comité Regional de Promoción de Salud Comunitaria
International People´s Health Council

Ma. Elena Adre, FdCC, Canossian Sisters
Sr. Estela Cordero, Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of
the Canossian

Azucena González Coloma, Centro de Ciencias Medioambientales, CSIC
CECU (Confederación de Consumidores y Usuarios)

Sri Lanka
Jerry Moles, NeoSynthesis Research Centre
Theja Weeratne, Simple Wisdom

South Africa
Earthlife Africa
Safe Food Coalition
South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering (SAFeAGE)

Yonge Nawe Environmental Action Group

Bruno Gurtner , Senior Economist, Swiss Coalition of Development
Florianne Koechlin, Blueridge-Institute

United Kingdom
The Gaia Trust
Genetic Food Alert UK
Scarborough Against Genetic Engineering
Swindon Friends of the Earth
Barbara Dinham, Director, Pesticide Action Network UK
Matthew Mellen, The Gaia Foundation
Jane  Smith
Tina Speck
Bob Speck
Marcus Williamson, Editor, Genetically Modified Food-News

ECOS  Centro para el Desarrollo Sustentable

Adrian Dominican Sisters
Africa Faith and Justice Network
Anarchist Action of Rochester
Community Nutrition Institute
Council for Responsible Genetics
Family Farm Defenders
Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy
Foundation on Economic Trends
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Morton County Citizens for Responsible Government,
NW Resistance Against Genetic Engineering
Organic Consumers Association
Pesticide Action Network North America
People's Education for a Sustainable Future
Religious Center on Biotechnology, Inc.
Rochester Food Not Bombs
Washington Biotechnology Action Council
Wisconsin Fair Trade Campaign
Catherine Arata, SHALOM- The International Network for Justice, Peace,
        of Creation of the School Sisters of Notre Dame
Rev. James P. Brobst, OMI, Director, Oblate house of Theology
Jonathan Frieman, JoMiJo Foundation
Mary Ellen Gondeck, Sisters of St. Joseph Office of Peace and Justice
Ethel Fraga
John Hagelin, Director, Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy
Martha Honey, Co-Director, Foreign Policy in Focus
David C. Korten, People-Centered Development Forum
A.V.Krebs, Corporate Agribusiness Research Project
The Rev. Dr. Wallace Ryan Kuroiwa, United Church of Christ USA
James Love, Director, Consumer Project on Technology
Gar Smith, Editor, The-Edge, Earth Island Institute
Laura Ticciati, Executive Director, Mothers for Natural Law

Green Living Movement
Dr. Mbololwa Mbikusita-Lewanika
Bonaventure Mpasa, Delegate General for Justce and Peace and the
Safeguarding of
        Creation (JPSC) for the Conventual Franciscan Friars (OFMConv)
Father Darrell Rupiper, OMI  (Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate)

49th Parallel Biotechnology Consortium (US-Canada)
Anti-Globalisation Network (UK and international)



Financial Express, 16 January 2003

The controversy over the proposed import of genetically modified (GM) corn-soya blend from the US has finally ended with both the importing agencies - CARE-India and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) deciding against importing the products. They have withdrawn their petitions before the Appellate Authority constituted under the GMO Rules . Environment ministry sources told FE, "the matter has finally been resolved as both CARE-India and CRS have recently withdrawn their petitions." CARE-India officials when contacted admitted the withdrawal of petition but refused to comment on the situation. CRS country representative, Stephen Robert Hilbert said "we are just as concerned about the health of the poor as the Indian government" and declined to further comment on the situation. CARE (Co-operation for American Relief Everywhere), an international non-government organisation (NGO) operating in India, had in July last sought the permission to import 15,000 tonne of GM corn-soya blend from the US while CRS had proposed to import 8,000 tonne. As GM corn and soya are yet to get approval the government referred the matter to the genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC). Meanwhile, when the first shipment of 1,000 tonne was about to arrive, GEAC decided in November-end not to approve the consignment as the US government or the exporting agency had failed to certify that the consignment would not contain traces of the dangerous Starlink Corn or any other GM materials hazardous to human health. The agencies then appealed before the one-man Appeallate Authority headed by the former environment secretary, Vishwanath Anand against the GEAC's order on December-end. The Appeallate Authority had fixed the date for hearing on February 18. According to sources, US Senator Christopher Bond and Dr Roger N Beachy, president of Donald Danforth Plant Science Center had met government officials and ministers in December to convince them that the GM foods in the US were perfectly safe.

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