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3-Food: Zimbabwe approves GM maize imports

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TITLE:  Govt approves GM maize imports
SOURCE: Zimbawbe Independent, by Vincent Kahiya
DATE:   June 28, 2002

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Govt approves GM maize imports 

THE government has approved the importation of genetically-modified maize 
as part of efforts to feed starving Zimbabweans, the Zimbabwe Independent 
established this week. World Food Programme (WFP) public affairs officer in 
Zimbabwe, Makena Walker, this week confirmed government had agreed to allow 
GM maize into the country. "The government of Zimbabwe has agreed to take 
GM maize so long as it is milled immediately upon arrival in the country," 
Walker said.

The Independent understands the Bio-Safety Board in the Office of the 
President and Cabinet recently wrote to the WFP, which is co-ordinating 
relief efforts in the country, stating government policy regarding the 
importation of GM maize. Walker confirmed receipt of the letter but could 
not provide further details.

Earlier this month the government was reported to have turned down GM maize 
from the United States because it threatened beef exports and local maize 
seed varieties. In a televised programme, Talking Farming, Lands and 
Agriculture minister Joseph Made said GM maize was "unacceptable in 
Zimbabwe". Maize initially destined for Zimbabwe was eventually shipped to 
Malawi and Zambia who are also facing severe food shortages.

Walker said the WFP placed no restrictions on GM foods which had passed the 
safety standards of a donating country and were accepted by the recipient 
country. "There are no restrictions placed on GM foods under the Codex 
Alimentarius, which is the joint World Health Organisation and Food and 
Agricutlure Organisation body dealing with safety and other standards for 
trade in foods."

"WFP neither tests nor labels for GM content since that is not called for 
by the Codex and there are no internationally-accepted standards for such 
tests," said Walker.

A recent United Nations report said GMO products (maize meal) had been 
allowed into the country, but only by special waiver on a case-by-case 
basis. The waivers are granted after consultations with the Bio-Safety 
Board, the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, and the 
Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. "The administrative 
complexity of obtaining the waiver could impede actual food aid delivery by 
delaying logistical timeline necessities," the report said. "The UN system 
and donors are negotiating with government to establish a more streamlined 
means of bringing GMO products into the country in order to ease the 
current food crisis," said the UN.

Last week we incorrectly reported that the WFP had imported 117 000 tonnes 
of food under the aid programme to Zimbabwe. The WFP this week said pledges 
of up to 66 600 tonnes had been made to date.


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