No to GM Food Aid by scu20129


									No to GM Food Aid

BYLINE: The Herald

ZIMBABWE will not accept food aid containing genetically modified organisms, Lands, Agriculture and
Rural Resettlement Minister Cde
Joseph Made said here yesterday.

 However, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation director-general Dr Jacques Diouf urged
countries in Southern Africa to
 carefully consider current scientific knowledge before rejecting the food aid containing genetically
modified organisms (GMOs).

 Asked if he was prepared to discuss the food aid issue with the United States officials at the World Summit
on Sustainable
 Development, Cde Made told reporters that there was nothing to discuss between the two countries
concerning the issue of GM food

 "Zimbabwe will not accept genetically modified food aid. "There is nothing to discuss (with US officials) .
. . You cannot use the
 Zimbabwean population as guinea pigs," the minister said.

Although the WSSD Summit is an opportunity for poor countries to voice their thoughts about the impact
of Genetic Engineering and
cloning of farm animals, many countries facing starvation, in particular Zimbabwe and its regional
partners, are experiencing a
difficult ethical dilemma as a result of the widespread use of Genetically Modified crops.

 Zimbabwe has a longstanding policy against GM food on the grounds of human safety and the potential
threat that GM crop
 contamination could pose for the local environment.

 "You cannot talk of the morality of the American position. They always carry double standards when it
comes to the developing world .
 . . There is no way we can bring that material into Zimbabwe which is a very clean environment," said Cde

Other African countries were also finding themselves ill-equipped to deal with the GM issue.

 Zambia's permanent secretary for Information Mr David Kashweka said: "Our position on genetically
modified foods is that they should
 not be allowed to be consumed in the country without knowing fully the implications and consequences
thereof. Unfortunately when
 your people are starving there is little choice."

 Mr Kashweka added that his government has yet to finalise the policy on GM organisms in Zambia "vis-a-
vis imports or growing of
 such materials".

A senior Government official said regional scientists would meet in Zimbabwe next week to debate the
GM foods issue.

Southern African countries were more concerned about the GMO as the agenda was driven by the
biotechnological multilateral
 industries whose main objective was to make huge profits under the pretext of ending famine and poverty
in Africa.

 The local small-scale farmers who have reproduced their seeds using indigenous knowledge systems treat
this debate with suspicion.

Director of Kenya's Indigenous Information Network Ms Lucy Mulenkei said genetically modified seeds
would kill traditional agriculture.

She added that the large amounts used to genetically modify plants would be better spent on helping
women maximise their traditional
knowledge in sustaining families.

Dr Ellie Osir who works with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in
Nairobi, Kenya said there were risks
that poor countries could expose themselves to when they accept GM foods.

ICIPE is currently testing a GM crop called BT maize, produced by Monsanto.

The maize has been genetically altered to produce the bacillus thuringiensis (BT) bacteria, a toxin which
kills insects.

Traditionally BT was sprayed on crops, like a pesticide.

But when the BT gene is put inside the plant, it continues to produce the toxin itself.

 BT maize has long been used in the US and recently in South Africa but this does not mean that it is safe
for Africa.

 The FAO director-general, however, said at a Press conference that there were currently no international
agreements covering trade
 and aid involving food containing GMOs.

 He said an ad hoc committee of Codex Alimentarius, the joint FAO-WHO food safety body, was working
to develop appropriate

 "In the meantime, the important thing is that all donated food meets the safety standards of both the donor
and recipient countries.
 FAO together with WHO and the World Food Programme takes the view based on information from a
variety of sources and current
 scientific knowledge that the food being offered to Southern African countries is not likely to present a
human health risk and may be

 "The UN therefore believes that in the current crisis, governments in Southern Africa must consider
carefully the severe and immediate
 consequences of limiting food aid available for millions of people so desperately in need.

Their plight must weight heavily in government decision-making," Dr Diouf said.

 He said he recognised that there were concerns about potential risks to biological diversity and sustainable
agriculture, however, these
 potential risks should be judged and managed by individual countries on a case by case basis.
 In sub-Saharan Africa 70 percent of the population live in the rural areas and depend on subsistence
agriculture for livelihoods. Almost
 40 percent of them live in abject poverty because of failing yields, poor commodities markets, high cost of
crop inputs and erratic
 weather conditions as the technology for irrigation is still miles away from most rural farmers.

 The main challenge is that the GMOs are also protected under Article 27 Section (3b) of Trade Related
Intellectual Property Rights
 (TRIPS) of the Multilateral Trading agency - the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

 The world body advocates for market liberalisation so that products from the North rich countries find
their market in the poor South
 countries, in particular Africa but not vice-versa due to high tariffs and non-tariff barriers.

In South Africa GMO maize was introduced in 1998 and thousands of hectares were put under the crop.
Although they have claimed
that it was mainly meant for animal feed one cannot rule out the possibility of human consumption.

 Meanwhile the Minister of State for Information and Publicity in the Office of the President Professor
Jonathan Moyo rejected
 accusations that the land resettlement exercise was responsible for the food shortages in the country.

 "We uphold certain political values such as sovereignty, independence and pan-African solidarity. These
are the things we have to
 pursue here. The fast-track land resettlement is over.

 "There are no people who need to move in, there are no people who need to move out. We are now praying
that God gives us the
 next thing, the rains.

 "God is not something in the control of the British. It's in God's hands and you cannot define the success of
the land reform
 programme by the drought.

 "While we are having drought they (Europeans) are having floods. Are they able to do anything with those
floods? Are they able to
 grow anything? No. So you cannot judge us on such issues as the drought," Prof Moyo said.

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