3-Food: US Aid Agencies instructed to report anti-GM nations to USAID
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TITLE: COMMENT by Robert Vint, Genetic Food Alert, UK
Meeting on Title II Commodities GMO Clearance Issues
SOURCE: Food Aid Management, USA, sent by Robert Vint
DATE: Jan 13, 2003; report downloaded Jan 14, 2003
------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------
The USDA has instructed US Aid Agencies to act as international policemen
on behalf of US biotech corporations. In the minutes of its meeting with
it is made clear that US Aid Agencies are expected to immediately report
any opposition to GM food imports by recipient nations to USAID, that they
are to make investigations to enable USAID to classify objections as either
'political' or 'trade' related and that USAID will then take the necessary
'diplomatic action' (sanctions?, WTO prosecutions?, aid cancellations/, IMF
action?) to ensure that the shipments are accepted. In these minutes it
says: "USDA stated that the first response when a PVO encounters
questioning from the receiving government on the GMO content of food aid
shipments should be to inform the local USAID mission of these new
concerns. The PVO should begin immediately collecting documentation to
serve as proof of the recipient country's laws/policies and to assist in
determining if the problem is trade or politically motivated. The local
USAID mission will likely negotiate with the local government officials to
clarify and gain an understanding of why the clearance of these products is
being questioned/disputed now at this time and for what reasons. Especially
at this early stage of the situation, USAID's diplomatic ability in
resolving the situation is crucial."
Whereas most Aid Agencies buy their food on the free market - and thereby
support the livelihoods of small farmers in recipient nations - some US Aid
Agencies only ship US grain provided by USAID. This is an anti-competitive
practice condemned by the OECD and the international aid community because
of its trade-distorting effects and its devastating impact on the rural
economies of poor nations. As the European Commission recently stated: "The
EU does not at all question the granting of genuine food aid. It questions
the use of food aid donations used as surplus disposal measures. Some WTO
members have used food aid donations more as a production and commercial
tool to dispose of surpluses and promote sales in foreign markets than as a
development tool tailored to the needs of the recipient countries. It is
ironic that the amount of food aid given by some countries tends to
increase significantly when prices are low whereas levels are much lower
when prices are high - and food aid is most needed."
The dependency of US agencies such as CARE and Catholic Relief Services on
USAID means they are now being used as international policemen and
marketers for the US biotech industry. The following article from India
explains how these two charities are being used to force open the door to
GM in India after a USAID shipment was rejected.
Food Aid Management
Environmental Working Group (EWG)
Meeting on Title II Commodities GMO Clearance Issues
May 6, 2002
A few months ago, members of the FAM EWG met to discuss how the PVOs could
get more support from FFP, USDA, and the food industry when recipient
countries object to Title II food aid shipments that may contain
genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but about which no information on
content is readily available.
At the most recent FACG meeting, Ange Tingbo of Africare as representative
of the FAM EWG presented the GMO clearance issues that several PVOs have
faced recently and called for a joint meeting of interested stakeholders.
Today's meeting brought the appropriate players involved (PVOs, USDA,
USAID, food industry – North American Millers Association [NAMA] and the
American Soybean Association [ASA]) together to: present a few case studies
from PVOs that would improve awareness and understanding of the issues that
have arisen when PVOs are faced with GMO clearance issues in Title II
commodities; explain the problems with clearing food aid shipments in
countries where governments have objected to potential GMO content and to
understand the difficulties that the PVOs have dealt with in responding to
these situations, for example - the burden of finding proof, the lack of
expertise to do so, the costs of doing so, and the inability to use the
info for future shipments; discuss when or where we think these problems
might arise again; recommend areas in which the PVOs would anticipate more
support from the US Government so that the clearance issues can be handled
in a more proactive rather than reactive manner and that would also be
quicker and more cost efficient; and to plan and arrange possible solutions
to these problems.
Two food aid cases were referenced in particular: soy products handled by
ACDI/VOCA being held up by the Uganda government and in a similar situation
in India with CARE. These clearance issues stemmed from inconsistency in
recipient countries' application of their policies.
James Firth, USDA informed the group that the USDA issued a statement that
has been widely circulated as follows concerning GM products: "The
transgenic [soybean] [corn] varieties produced in the United States have
been reviewed under the U.S. regulatory processes for determining the
safety of new agricultural biotechnology products. This regulatory process
is well coordinated among U.S. regulatory agencies and sets the U.S.
regulatory standards for human, animal, and plant health, and environmental
safety. [Soybean] [Corn] varieties, including transgenic varieties, used
for domestic consumption are the same as those for export, including food
aid. In the United States, biotechnology products are not commonly
differentiated or segregated either for domestic consumption or for export."
The discussion then focused on tolerance levels of GMOs in the total
product shipped. The USDA and food industry representatives explained that
it is virtually impossible to guarantee non-GMO purity even in non-
genetically altered products such as a shipment of wheat (no varieties are
grown that are GMO) that may contain a few grains of genetically altered
corn or soy. They further emphasized that the US does not export commodity
products that are guaranteed to be GMO-free, even on a commercial basis.
The US does ship commodities commercially to some foreign countries that
specify a 5% maximum GMO tolerance level however.
It was emphasized that the US government will not consider food aid
shipments that are guaranteed GMO-free or that have any reduction in
percentage in GMO content level since the US policy states that "varieties,
including transgenic varieties, used for domestic consumption are the same
as those for export, including food aid".
The discussion was re-focused on the issue at hand, since the PVOs are not
requesting shipment of GMO-free products nor disputing the US GMO
regulatory policies. Rather, the PVOs want to be proactive in preventing
situations like in Uganda and India occurring again and if they should, the
desire is to have already defined the action steps needed, the support
required from USAID, USDA, and others, and have an understanding on who
bears the costs incurred.
On the prevention side, USDA and the food industry representatives
emphasized that it is critical that PVOs are fully aware of and understand
the receiving government's policies, regulations, and restrictions
regarding import of GM products. USDA stated that the first response when
a PVO encounters questioning from the receiving government on the GMO
content of food aid shipments should be to inform the local USAID mission
of these new concerns. The PVO should begin immediately collecting
documentation to serve as proof of the recipient country's laws/policies
and to assist in determining if the problem is trade or politically
motivated. The local USAID mission will likely negotiate with the local
government officials to clarify and gain an understanding of why the
clearance of these products is being questioned/disputed now at this time
and for what reasons. Especially at this early stage of the situation,
USAID's diplomatic ability in resolving the situation is crucial.
The group present suggested that preparing a step-by-step guideline for
prevention and handling of GMO clearance issues could be developed perhaps
through the EWG, the FAM Monetization Working Group, or the FACG commodity
On the question of what organization (PVO, USDA, USAID, industry,) bears
the cost incurred in GM product clearance situations, USAID stated that the
PVO will incur the expenses since the commodity shipment belongs to the PVO
from the point when freight is along side the vessel. (FAS).
Further Action Suggested: Besides the prevention and immediate steps
mentioned in the points above, the following actions were discussed:
In addition to the PVO ensuring that the receiving country does not have
GMO restrictions, the Bellmon analysis conducted by the PVO should clearly
verify the receiving country's GMO policy and regulations if possible. It
was underscored that in certain cases it might not be possible to ascertain
this information, and there could be changes in policy/personnel that would
take place between the time the Bellmon was completed and the time of
shipment arrival. Also, it was noted that if the question was raised to
officials in some cases, they might begin to consider whether or not such a
restriction were necessary. Other means were encouraged to ascertain
disposition toward GMO imports.
The problem will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis when incidents arise.
As in previous GM product clearance situations that PVOs have faced, USAID,
USDA, the food industry, and the PVO should work together as a team to
resolve the situation as quickly as possible. All of these organizations
will do whatever possible to provide the information and support required
in responding to the situation.
Other issue raised: Adrian mentioned the Government of Uganda requirement
for labeling of packages with 'Best of Use Date'. The solution of using
date labeling must be coordinated and jointly agreed on by the PVOs and
resolved through FFP.
Special thanks to Cathie Johnson, USDA and Ange Tingbo, Africare for
assistance in arranging today's meeting.
List of Participants:
Jim Firth, Export Programs-Farm Service Agency, USDA
Jim Thompson, FFP-USAID
Paul Green, North American Grain Millers (NAMA)
Anna Pavlova, American Soybean Association
Ange Tingbo, Africare
Adrian Ng’asi, ACDI/VOCA
Suzanne Schwoebel, ACDI/VOCA
Polly Ericksen, CRS
Mara Russell, FAM
Trish Schmirler, FAM
Steve Zodrow, FAM
GM Corn-Soya Import Issue Referred To Appellate Body
Ashok B Sharma
New Delhi, Jan 12
The controversial issue of refusing the first shipment of 1,000 tonne soya-
corn blend from the US on the grounds that it might contain genetically
modified (GM) foods hazardous to human health has been referred to the
Appellate Authority constituted under the GMO Import Rules.
The one-man Appellate Authority headed by the former environment secretary,
Viswanath Anand, is slated to hear the contending parties on February 11,
According to the GMO Import Rules, only those GM products which are
approved by GEAC can only be imported for commercial use. The GEAC has, so
far, approved only transgenic Bt cotton for commercial cultivation. GM
corn, maize and soya are not approved by the GEAC.
Earlier, the international NGOs operating in the country namely the
Cooperation for American Relief Everywhere (CARE) and the Catholic Relief
Services (CRS) had proposed to import corn-soya blend from the US for
distribution to schools children. The CARE had proposed to import 15,000
tonne of soya-corn blend while CRS proposed to import 8,000 tonne of the
same from the US. Both CARE and CRS applied to the government way back in
July 2002 to allow them to import these food products. Subsequently,
towards the end of the year 2002, the Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee (GEAC) functioning under the Union environment ministry refused
to allow the import of this food consignment from the US on the grounds
that it may contain GM stuffs which may be hazardous to human health and
environment. There was also an apprehension that the consignment may
contain GM Starlink corn which is approved in the US only for industrial
use and animal feed and not for direct human consumption.
The matter turned worse when the US government and the exporting agency
refused to certify that the consignment does not contain any GM products.
Instead, they stated that in the US, non-GM foods are mixed with GM foods
and is, therefore, difficult to segregate. Meanwhile, the CARE and the CRS
approached the Appellate Authority constituted under the GMO Import Rules
GEAC former chairman AM Gokhale, who passed the order for refusing the
controversial consignment of GM food from the US, said, "We are not against
any GM foods as such, but we do not want to undertake any risks of possible
hazards as these products are not yet tested in our country."
Mr Gokhale has been shifted out of the Union environment ministry and has
joined his new assignment as chairman of the Food Corporation of India
(FCI) from January 3, 2003. Incidentaly, the news of GEAC's refusal on the
controversial GM food consignment was unkown to the media till a foreign
agency reported it on January 2. Meanwhile, the GEAC is now headless. Ms
Meena Gupta, IAS from the Orissa cadre is expected to join her new
assignment by January 15.
(This news report appeared in The Financial Express, India on January 13,
Caution Needed In Imports Of Starlink Corn
Ashok B Sharma
The Indian government and the country's Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee (GEAC) has rightly expressed concerns about the possible hazards
of Starlink Corn and other genetically modified (GM) food products which
are not yet approved in this country.
The GEAC has recently disapproved the request of CARE-India and the
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to import of the first consignment of 1,000
tonne of corn-soya blend from the US on the ground that it may contain GM
products. The GEAC also has apprehensions that the consignment may contain
the 'hazardous' Starlink Corn, which is not yet been found fit for human
consumption in the US.
Both the CARE-India and CRS has now approached the appeallate authority on
imports of GMOs to intervene and allow them to import the consignment. The
Appeallate Authority is likely to hear the contending parties on February
11, 2003. The GEAC gave its disapproval for the import of the US
consignment after the the US government and the exporting agency failed to
certify that the consignment does not contain GM foods.
The issue is now clear. There are reports of many countries refusing the US
consignments of GM foods on grounds of health and environmental safety.
Since, the rejected consignments was said to contain GM corn and soya, it
would be better to limit the scope of discussion to only to these two GM
crops. Concerns about the US export of GM corn has been recently raised in
Japan and Australia. Reuters News Service from Washington in December 30,
2002 had reported "Japan has found trace amounts of unapproved Starlink
Corn in an American shipment bound for Tokyo's food supply, renewing fears
that major trading partners may once again turn their backs on the US
crops." Japan's ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries detected
Starlink Corn in in the vessel, The North King docked at Nagoya harbour.
The USDA officials in Washington was reported to be then unaware that the
said consignment contained Starlink Corn.
The genetically modified Starlink Corn was developed by Aventis
CropScience. It slipped into the US food chain in September 2000 sparking a
nationwide recall of more than 300 kinds of cornbased foods. The regulatory
authority in the US has approved Starlink Corn for animal feed only. It has
not approved Starlink Corn for human consumption as it might cause allergic
reactions. Though the USDA's Federal Grain Service has put in place
specific procedures to identify and segregate Starlink corn and its traces
from the food chain it seems that the system has not worked well.
Japan has found that about 1,200 tonne of cron in a 19,234 tonne shipment
from US contains traces of Starlink Corn. It has decided to enhance its
capability in testing and decting Starlink Corn and any other hazardous GM
foods. China has developed a microchip for testing and detecting hazardous
GM foods. There are reports that one of the major importer of US corn in
South Korea, KOCOPIA is now insisting on non-Starlink certification and
samples for its tenders.
There are reports that 50,000 tonne of the US corn containing genetically
engineered (GE) varieties arriving in Brisbane, Australia on January 9,
2003 for use as chicken feed. The Australian Gene Technology Regulator
licenced the cargo even though some GE lines have not been assessed or
approved in that country. This has caused widespread resentment in
Australia. The Democrats agriculture spokesperson, Senator John Cherry had
said that mixing of GM corn with GM-free corn into the animal feedstock
chain could interfere with certification that Australian pork, poultry and
beef exports are GM free. Australian government is now concerned that their
meat and poultry exports to the European Union and other countries may be
Thus it shows that the concern of the Indian government and the GEAC over
the unapproved GM foods entering the country is really serious. The Indian
government should put in place effective mechanism for detecting traces of
unapproved GM products in the food chain in the country and be stern in
refusing imports of such hazardous foods. It should import the technology
for detecting and testing unapproved GM traces in the food chain from
either Japan of China. The sooner the better.
Further it a matter of concern to note that an independent consultant to
the World Health Organisation (WHO), Norbert Hirschhorn has found that food
companies have attempted to place scientists favourable to their views on
WHO and FAO committees. They have financially supported NGOs which were
invited to formal discussions on key issues on the UN agencies. They have
financed research and policy groups that supported their views and they
have financed individuals who promote anti-regulation ideology to the
public. It is, therefore, necessary that national governments and the
public should be very cautious of such moves of the multinational companies.
(This article appeared in The Financial Express, India on January 13, 2003
in the author's weekly column FARM FRONT)
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