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3-Food: Starving Africa resists GM corn

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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Zukas Criticises Levy for Refusing Gmos
SOURCE: The Post, Zambia, by Larry Moonze
DATE:   Nov 4, 2002

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Zukas Criticises Levy for Refusing Gmos

Don't confuse people because you boobed on refusing Genetically Modified 
Organism (GMO) maize, FDD [Forum for Democracy and Development] national 
chairman Simon Zukas has advised government.

Reacting to science and technology minister Abel Chambeshi's statement that 
the European Union's (EU) new policy on GMOs was the same argument Zambia 
was advancing to food donors including the World Food programme (WFP), 
Zukas said government must not cheat.

"We want government to be honest and transparent and not tell us lies," he 
said. "Politicians sometimes can tell lies but not government." Zukas said 
government after its ill-conceived reasoning to reject GMO maize was trying 
to persuade the starving citizenry to support its 'stupid' mistake.

He said what the EU had done was not banning GMO maize or products but 
merely recommending that all importers of non-organic crop label them as 

Zukas said labelling GMOs enabled people to make their own choices as to 
whether they could take risks from consuming GMOs if at all there were any. 
"It's like any other product. You choose what you want and decide on the 
belief that is inside you," he said.

He said in any case there were no people starving in the EU. Zukas said 
there was no reason to unilaterally ban GMO maize in Zambia because it 
could be milled at the point of entry and fed to the hungry. He said the 
problem Zambia had was that government did not think properly.

"This government is confused. This is why we are saying Mwanawasa zwa 
(go)," he said. Zukas also said it was not the fault of President Mwanawasa 
and his new deal government that people were poor.

He, however, said President Mwanawasa had to bear the fault because his 
government was doing little to mitigate the suffering. Zukas said until 
government concentrated on getting the economy right there would be no 

He said whereas in 1964 Zambians were a proud people and internationally 
recognised as a prosperous nation, today the country was embarrassingly 
relying on the outside world to run everything including schools and health 

"Yes, we are thankful for this aid from donors but it does not make us any 
proud," he said. Zukas said the first job of government was to help 
overcome poverty even from its own meagre resources.

And FDD spokesperson Elizabeth Chitika said the colossal money used to fly 
President Mwanawasa from country to country was enough to procure 
fertiliser, food, drugs and build roads to get Zambians out of the current 
economic trouble. She said this government could not conclusively fight 
corruption because President Levy Mwanawasa was himself a product of 

Chitika also demanded that President Mwanawasa pays chiefs and their 
retainers their five months salary arrears.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Starving Africa Resists GM Corn
SOURCE: Financial Times - Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, UK
        sent by AgBioView
DATE:   Nov 4, 2002

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Starving Africa Resists GM Corn

Southern African leaders held up genetically modified food aid for 13 
million facing famine to hide their own faults, Gavin du Venage hears. 
Three million Zambians face starvation after their government decided not 
to accept food aid because it was derived from genetically modified (GM) 

Five other Southern African countries have reluctantly accepted emergency 
supplies produced from GM crops after desperate pleas from aid agencies. At 
least 13 million people, some reported by the UN to be reduced to eating 
leaves, need assistance. Policy failures and drought have combined to 
ravage harvests. Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho are 
the worst affected.

John Stremlau, formerly a US diplomat and now a senior member of the South 
African Institute for International Relations, says countries have used the 
GM food issue to cover up mismanagement and incompetence.

"These objections are completely misguided and clearly political. The 
drought may be a natural phenomenon but the famine is entirely man-made," 
he said.

Mr Stremlau said ruinous economic policies in Zimbabwe and corruption and 
inefficiency in Zambia and Malawi had destroyed food self-sufficiency in 
the region.

In Malawi, for instance, the government belatedly sacked the minister of 
poverty alleviation, Leonard Mangulama, in August after it turned out he 
had sold the country's strategic maize reserves - 166,000 tonnes - and 
allegedly pocketed the cash. Hundreds in Malawi have died already and three 
million are on the verge of starvation. Zimbabwe - which until recently 
exported maize to its neighbours - continues to force white farmers off 
their land to make way for ruling-party militants. The mostly white-owned 
commercial agricultural sector has been devastated, and commercial farms, 
which have ample water reserves even during times of drought, have been 
unable to plant seed.

"These countries are rife with corruption and are trying to push the blame 
for their own inadequacies on to the World Food Programme (WFP) and USAid," 
said Jason Lott, a researcher at the bioethics department of Johannesburg's 
Witwatersrand University.

"A conspiracy theory is doing the rounds in the region which claims that 
USAid and the WFP are serving as fronts for US bio-food corporations trying 
to unload produce they cannot sell at home. These governments have latched 
on to this theory because it detracts from their own bad management."

Many conspiracy theories originate from fringe lobby groups in Europe, 
where suspicion of agricultural policies is high. "The attitude of 'better 
to starve than eat GM corn' reflects a luxury until now reserved for picky 
Europeans and radical US academics," Mr Lott said. "It is an ill-informed 
debate with pragmatic consequences in Africa. In Europe, if people don't 
want to eat bio-foods they can eat something else. In this part of Africa, 
where people are dying from hunger, there is no 'something else'."

Most food aid is donated by the United States through its international 
assistance agency, USAid. Its officials and the WFP have tried to convince 
affected countries that GM foods are safe. Speaking at a briefing in 
Washington, USAid administrator Andrew Natsios said every effort was made 
to calm the fears of affected governments. "My children and my wife and I 
have been eating genetically modified maize for the last seven years, and 
so have most Americans, and, I might add, most Canadians and Brazilians and 
Argentinians and Chinese and Indians."

Mr Natsios explained that the US would provide about 500,000 tonnes, or 70 
per cent of the total food requirement for the region, with mostly European 
donors making up the rest. One of the chief objections to GM foods has been 
that if farmers hold back seeds from GM harvests to plant, they will be 
liable for patent royalties to US firms, costing poor countries millions of 
dollars in scarce foreign exchange.

Glen Ashton, director of the South Africa-based lobby group Safe-Age, says 
countries accepting patented products will fall victim to commercial 
colonialism. "These countries were right to reflect deeply as to whether 
they should accept these products. If genetically engineered grains get 
planted, then the patent-holders of these plants can go into Africa and 
claim the crops. It would be biological imperialism," he said.

Mr Stremlau says: "The suspicions regarding the West run deep in this 
region. Together with bad management, this distrust mixes up a devil's brew 
of problems for anyone wanting to come in and provide assistance."


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