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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
        http://www.foodaidmanagement.org/worddocs/environmentwg/50602.doc
DATE:   Jan 13, 2003; report downloaded Jan 14, 2003

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


COMMENT:

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 
aid agencies

http://www.foodaidmanagement.org/worddocs/environmentwg/50602.doc

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."

http://europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/guesten.ksh?p_action.gettxt=gt&doc=IP/
02/1892|0|RAPID&lg=EN&display

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 
working group.

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, 
2003.

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 
to intervene.

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, 
2003)


*****


FARM FRONT
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 
hampered.

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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