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3-Food: NGOs oppose GM food dumping in Iraq and favour a UN role

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TITLE:  NGOs Oppose GM Food Dumping In Iraq, Favour UN Role
SOURCE: The Financial Express, India, by Ashok B Sharma
DATE:   Apr 13, 2003

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NGOs Oppose GM Food Dumping In Iraq, Favour UN Role
India is ready to play a major part in the reconstruction process

New Delhi, April 13: After the occupation of the major part of Iraq by
the US and allied troops, the issue of humanitarian food aid is becoming
murkier in the war-torn country. NGOs worldover, including Oxfam and
Greenpeace have started protesting against genetically modified (GM) food
being dumped in Iraq by US. Countries like France, Germany and Russia has
demanded that relief and reconstruction operations in Iraq should be done
strictly under the supervision of the UN, so that the US firms do not
grab all the opportunities.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said that the Iraqi
agriculture has been devastated and may lead to food crisis and livestock
diseases. The United Nations has appealed for $ 2.2 billion to
reconstruct Iraq.

Meanwhile, some global NGOs say that the pertaining situation in the war
ravaged Iraq is not yet favourable for India to participate in a
rehabilitation process. However, Union agriculture minister Ajit Singh
feels that with its burgeoning food stocks, India can be of help. India
and other countries can participate in the process if such operations are
conducted under UN supervision.

Three voluntary organisation in Bangladesh, namely UBINIG, Nayakrishi
Andolon and Narigrantha Prabartana have written to the UN World Food
Programme (WFP) and other UN agencies not to use any GM food as aid to
war victims in Iraq. They have also cautioned that the US after the war
may try to introduce the GM wheat recently developed by Monsanto for
cultivation in Iraq. They have, therefore urged that the reconstruction
and rehabilitation work after the war should be supervised by the UN and
not by US.

In a joint letter to the WFP, the three NOGs of Bangladesh said "we have
obtained information that not only the oil transnationals but the
beleaguered GM food industry are also trying to move in to distribute the
untested and unwanted GM food as part of the 'humanitarian aid'. America
is getting ready to solve so many of its economic problems over the dead
and the injured in Iraq. They have already tried to use their junk GM
food to feed the famine affected people in Africa. But African
governments did not accept the GM food. Instead they decided to remain

US food aid is usually 'tied-aid' under US Public Law 480 that makes it
mandatory to be purchased from corporations of that country. In US non-GM
food are mixed with GM food for both domestic consumption, exports and
humanitarian aid and there is no labelling of GM foods.

The Oxfam International has also stressed "the need to quarantine human
health and biodiversity and respect the social and cultural context of
food aid recipient countries" and have urged governments and FAO to
develop and implement food aid standards that prevent distribution of
GMOs in food aid. Greenpeace International urged the foreign ministers of
different countries to fight against US practice of dumping its products.
Farmers' organisation in Phillipines has recently called for the boycott
of agricultural products from US to protest the invasion of Iraq. But the
USAID which is overseeing US relief and reconstruction in Iraq, sees it
differently. The USAID maintains that GM food introduced in US are not
injurious to health. GM crops allowed for commercial cultivation in US
has high level of productivity. USAID, however, admits that "close to 80
per cent of USAID contracts and grants go directly to American firms.
Foreign assistance programs have helped to create major markets for
agricultural goods, created new markets for American industrial exports
and meant hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans."

The USAID, with a view to avoid further controversy, has recently
announced that it would donate $ 200 million to WFP to purchase regional
food aid to Iraq to sustain immediate relief work as the shipments from
US may take time.