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3-Food: Malawi National Cancer Registry blames GM foods for rise incancer cases

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TITLE:  Malawi experts blame GM foods for rise in cancer cases
SOURCE: Panafrican News Agency
DATE:   21 Jul 2004 

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Malawi experts blame GM foods for rise in cancer cases

Blantyre, Malawi (PANA) - The Malawi National Cancer Registry (MNCR) has
warned that consumption of Genetically Modified (GM) foods can contribute
to cancer cases.

MNRC reports that Cancer, which takes five to 10 years to develop, is
dramatically increasing in Malawi recording up to 2, 900 cases annually.

MNRC director, Dr Charles Dzamalala said there might be a linkage between
the increasing cancer cases and the proliferation of GM foods on the
local market.

"Malawi has no capacity to detect prevailing types of cancer and treat
them using surgical excision, the theatre or prescriptions of anti-cancer
drugs," he said. "Moreover, some cancer types are incurable."

The country does not have cancer specialists (oncologists) hence they
refer patients to neighbouring South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania for
treatment. To mitigate the disease, the cancer registry has initiated a
campaign to educate the masses on the problem.

"Urban people are more prone to cancer risk because they are more exposed
to air, contaminated water and industrial pollution," said Dzamalala.

In Malawi, the commonest types of cancer include Karposis sarcoma, cancer
of the cervix, of the conjunctiva, malignant lymphoma and breast cancer.
Experts say there is a link between cancer and HIV/AIDS, which they
claim, has fuelled the cases.

Karposis sarcoma is the major type.

Research has shown that diet rich in fat, consumption of large quantities
of smoked fish and preserved meat with low fibre is related to high
incidence of cancer.

Available data indicates that up to 30 percent of such cancers are caused
by bad dietary habits.

A diet rich in fibre may provide 40 percent protection from cancer of the
large bowel.

Controversy over GM food flared in 2001/2002 farming season when Malawi
was severely hit by famine that inflicted several countries of southern
Africa due to prolonged dry spells.

Donor states, notably the United States, ferried tonnes of biotech maize
to the starved region. But Zimbabwean and Zambian governments refused to
distribute the maize to hungry populations for fear of its dangers.

Malawi, however, accepted the GM maize. But former agriculture minister
Aleke Banda expressed fears in Parliament that some ignorant farmers were
planting the GM food. He dispatched officials from his ministry to uproot
such maize crops.

"We have been warned of the environmental and health hazards of GMO foods
and no farmer should be allowed to use such maize for planting material,"
he warned.

The Malawi government and the UN World Food Programme resolved to mill
all GM maize before distribution to the needy.


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