ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

20 January 2003


Blame US Policy For Dumping GM Food Aid
Ashok B Sharma, Financial Express (India), January 19, 2003

Blame not the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for attempting to thrust the hazardous GM foods on the poor in India. The US policy is to be squarely blamed for such a situation!

The CRS communication associate for Asia, Joe Carney, in a communication to the coordinator of the Genetic Food Alert Organisation of UK, Robert J Vint, said, "We will continue to be transparent in our communications with governments, partners and beneficiaries about the food aid we are providing. We believe that it is important for people to be informed about GMOs and that decisions made about accepting and rejecting food aid must be the result of careful deliberations and an understanding of the humanitarian needs."

The letter further said, "In many countries, CRS promotes the distribution of locally produced seed through seed fairs. And, in cases where imported foods have been deemed to be inappropriate by local jurisdictions, cash and private resources, when available, can be used for purchase of locally produced foods, as well as to provide farmers with local seeds for the approaching season. However, in India, CRS does not make available the necessary amount of cash and private resources to purchase the amount of food needed for our programs. Therefore, CRS relies on food commodities provided by the US government. CRS has no control over whether the food it receives from the US government is GMO or not. Certainly, not all the food that CRS imports to India is GMO."

One may be sceptic about Mr Carney‚s statement, especially when he says that CRS in India does not have adequate funds to procure local food for relief work. One thing is clear that he is wrong in asserting "certainly, not all the food that CRS imports to India is GMO" (This is wrong if the imports are from the US because the USAID has openly gone on record saying that all GM and non-GM foods in the country are mixed for domestic consumption, exports and as well as for humanitarian aid). Mr Carney has to clarify whether CRS imports non-GM foods from any country other than the US!

Whatever may be the doubts arising from Mr Carney‚s letter, the situation becomes clear when one reads an article entitled ŒHeed the Hungry‚ written by Kevin Clarke in the journal ŒUS Catholic‚ vol 68, issue 1, January 1, 2003. The article begins with the line: "Forcing GM food on unwilling people make us corporal dorks of mercy."

The article further said, "The Africans are worried about the safety of the GM corn and the possible contamination of their existing corn strains through unsupervised planting and hybridisation from pollen drift. Such widespread genetic pollution has allegedly occurred in the genetic heartland of corn, southern Mexico...the South African Bishops‚ Conference has called for a regional moratorium on test plantings of GM crops."

"Some countries, including Zimbabwe and Malawai, have only reluctantly accepted milled GM corn after a great deal of pressure from US officials. The food aid was rejected outright by officials in Zambia, despite the fact that as many as 2.5 million Zambians are facing a hunger crisis," wrote Mr Clarke and criticised the situation, saying, "But in this era we don‚t have to treat the Zambians like beggars and we do have a choice when it comes to establishing an effective relief program which will feed the hungry while respecting the long-term interests and sovereignty of the nations we say we want to help. We are stewards of a common agricultural heritage which is being put at risk in the name of the poor and hungry in Africa. Surely, they have enough burdens without being asked to carry that additional responsibility on behalf of the likes of Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland."

Hope that CRS in India should come out with such a bold stand on the lines of Mr Clarke! Already, there are reports that an US-based NGO, which is comprised of Catholic religious and social justice groups, Africa Faith and Justice Network, has denounced US policy of imposing GM food aid. About 52 organisations and 45 individuals from 31 countries have written to US ambassador FAO, Tony Hall, demanding an apology for US‚s reckless comments on African leaders for rejecting GM food aid.

The US policy of dumping GM food aid in the Third World becomes abundantly clear from the minutes of the May 26, 2002 of the Food Aid Management Environmental Working Group (FAM-EWG) meeting where it has sought to exercise pressure tactics on aid agencies. The EU has recently condemned such US strategy of "surplus disposal measure" as "trade distorting effects and its devastating impact on the rural economies of poor nations"

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