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3-Food: Pro-GE organisations turned down invitation to Zambian conference

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TITLE:  Agencies Pushing Govt to Accept GM Foods Have Turned Down Invitation
SOURCE: The Post, Zambia, by Speedwell Mupuchi
DATE:   Nov 17, 2002

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Agencies Pushing Govt to Accept GM Foods Have Turned Down Invitation

Key international agencies pushing government to accept genetically 
modified food have turned down an invitation by Consumer International to a 
workshop on biotechnology to explain their positions. At a press briefing 
yesterday at Chrismar Hotel in Lusaka, Consumer International regional 
director Amadou Kanoute named the organisations as the Food and Agriculture 
Organisation (FAO), United States Agency for International Development 
(USAID), World Health Organisation (WHO and the European Union.

Kanoute said he was disappointed by the organisations' response as there 
was no need of being secretive when such issues arise. "We extended an 
invitation to key players and these have decided not to attend our meeting. 
This is a question of accountability," Kanoute said. He explained that they 
had invited the organisations so that as major players in the current 
debate on genetically modified foods, they could explain their positions to 
ensure consumers were given freedom of choice.

Kanoute said there was no miracle seed to solve problems African farmers 
were facing. He said hunger on the continent has multiple fathers and that 
asking farmers to buy genetically modified seeds every year would not solve 
the problem.

"When there are droughts, there is no miracle seed to solve that, when 
there is mismanagement, there is no miracle seed to solve that," he said. 
Kanoute said his organisation was concerned with the impact of genetic 
engineering and its effects on the environment.

He said genetically modified foods should be clearly labelled to enable 
consumers choose whether to take them or not. "People should be given 
choice on the type of products they want. I am a Moslem and I am not 
supposed to eat pork.

But if I find tomatoes genetically modified using genes from a pig, 
ethically the company that produces the tomatoes needs to provide that 
information," he explained. Kanoute said food security was linked to a 
healthy environment and water. He said every nation should strive to pay 
attention to these.

And in an interview, Zambia Consumer Association executive secretary 
Muyunda Ililonga said the Zambian government had taken the right step as a 
sovereign country to reject genetically modified foods. "It had taken an 
international principle. If there is no conclusive evidence that the food 
is safe, it is better not to take it," he said. Ililonga noted there were 
groups of people exaggerating the hunger situation in the country.

He said whereas there were areas facing critical food shortages, Zambia was 
not in a position where people were starving to death as there were a lot 
of locally grown products that could be used to feed the population. 
Ililonga, however, suggested that a long term solution to the country's 
food security situation lies on the government reviving food processing. 
The workshop on biotechnology opens on Monday in Lusaka with 50 
participants from 23 African countries.

It was earlier scheduled for South Africa but the venue had to change 
following the Zambian government's stand on GMO. Consumer International 
represents 260 consumer organisations in 120 countries of the world and has 
observer status on the United Nations.


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