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3-Food: One battle Bush won't win



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

TITLE:  One battle Bush won't win
SOURCE: Daily Nation, Kenya, Editorial
        http://www.nationaudio.com/News/DailyNation/25062003/
        Comment/Editorial2506200311.html
DATE:   June 25, 2003

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


One battle Bush won't win

As he prepares to make his trip to Africa next month, - a trip pushed
back form the beginning of the year after the invasion of Iraq took
priority - US President George Bush is expected to come bearing an armful
of goodies.

Americans say that one does not examine a gift horse too closely in the
mouth. But whatever financial and food aid pledges and trade packages
President Bush brings, he should expect a few queries as to motive.

In the last few months, for instance, President Bush has turned to
vigorous criticism of European countries he accuses of erecting road
blocks to the war against hunger in Africa.

His beef is that European Union restrictions against the use of
genetically modified foodstuffs directly affects the provision of food to
hungry Africa.

Mr Bush does not sound at all like a philanthropist keen to deliver
starving Africans from their misery; he sounds like a smooth-tongued
salesman for American biotech.

It is no secret that having invested billions of dollars in research,
giant US food and biotechnology companies are increasingly frustrated
that their products are not bringing in the projected financial returns.

The rest of the world markets - including Africa and Asia - have
generally adopted the position that what is not deemed safe for the
Europeans palate cannot be safe for them. So, even when in urgent need of
food aid, they have politely rejected what the US offers.

The US administration has already provided budgetary provision for a
multi-million dollar famine fund targeting African countries. The food
would, of course, be purchased exclusively from US corporations that do
need to recoup their investments.

The assumption seems to be that if those who can afford it, the Europeans
and Asians, and Americans too, are rejecting bio-engineered food, hungry
Africans would welcome it with open mouths.

President Bush might be surprised to find that when it comes to such
food, Africans do look a gift horse in the mouth!


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

TITLE:  Africa Becomes Battleground in Global Biotech War
SOURCE: Reuters, by Shapi Shacinda
DATE:   June 25, 2003

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Africa Becomes Battleground in Global Biotech War

LUSAKA - It is little surprise the transatlantic battle over genetically
modified food came to be fought on the scorched fields of Africa's
peasant farmers.

Here the ability of a field of maize to resist pests and drought is a
matter of life and death.

Yet, while millions of its people faced food shortages last year,
Zambia's government told aid agencies to take back thousands of tonnes of
GM maize, preferring to wait for unmodified aid than feed GM food to its
hungry people.

The continent's leaders have become pawns in a wider mesh of conflicting
trade and economic interests, bombarded by a confusing array of
information blurring into propaganda.

"We are not going to accept GMO food until there is world consensus on
its safety for human consumption," Zambia's Commerce, Trade and Industry
Minister Dipak Patel told Reuters Tuesday, after President Bush told
Europe its opposition to GM crops was contributing to famine in Africa.

"Europe is saying no to GMOs while the United States is saying GMOs are
safe. So we don't know whether GMOs are safe, as we are a developing
country with limited technology capacity to do our own tests ... We shall
therefore wait until there is consensus by the developed world," Patel said.

Any such consensus appears some way off.

"It's a complex issue because it deals with communication -- which is
very often inadequate -- and it deals with trade," said Wynand van der
Walt of the South Africa-based pro-GM research body AfricaBio. He says
there is no evidence that transgenic foods are dangerous for humans.

FACTS AND PERCEPTIONS

"We're dealing with facts on the one hand and perceptions on the other,"
van der Walt told Reuters.

While Zambia stuck to its guns in refusing GM crops due to the perceived
risks, nearby countries faced with the hard fact of millions going hungry
relented and allowed milled maize in while preventing the whole modified
grains from being used for seed.

In one nation, Zimbabwe, the row over GM food aid became tangled with
Western allegations of vote rigging by President Robert Mugabe. The key
issues -- such as the integrity of future grain exports from the region's
former breadbasket if GM strains were grown -- were blurred.

Van der Walt plays down the risks to trade of adopting GMOs, saying that
industry regulations need to be realistic and that productivity in hungry
countries can be raised by introducing crops resistant to pests and drought.

South Africa, the region's dominant political, economic and agricultural
power, has licensed GMO strains of cotton and soya as well as white and
yellow maize.

But opponents say it is setting a dangerous precedent on a continent
where so much food comes from subsistence farming.

"It's about ownership of the food chain. We feel it (GM technology) is a
much greater threat to food security," said Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss of
anti-GM group Biowatch South Africa.

She said switching to GM crops would compel farmers to buy seeds year
after year through contracts with the multinational firms that make them,
rather than saving seed from one year to the next, undermining
traditional farming practices.

GM opponents also reject Bush's contention that new technology will feed
the starving masses of Africa. They say lowering North American and
European agricultural subsidies would do far more for Africa's food supply.

"We shall only have enough food for ourselves once they remove subsidies.
Production of food in Africa remains expensive because of these
subsidies," said Zambia's trade minister Patel.

 


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