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9-Misc: US may press Africa on GMO's, Africans vow to resist



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TITLE:  US May Press Africa on GMO's, Africans Vow to Resist
SOURCE: Reuters, by Shapi Shacinda
DATE:   09 Feb 2006

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US May Press Africa on GMO's, Africans Vow to Resist

LUSAKA - The US may push Africa to accept gene-altered (GMO) food now
that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has ruled the EU broke rules by
barring GMO foods and seeds, but Africans vowed on Wednesday to resist.

"We do not want GM (genetically modified) foods and our hope is that all
of us can continue to produce non-GM foods," Zambian Agriculture
Minister Mundia Sikatana told Reuters in Lusaka.
"The decision by the WTO does nothing to change our stand in this matter."

The WTO ruled on Tuesday that the European Union and six member states
had broken trade rules by barring entry to genetically modified crops
and foods.

A US trade official confirmed findings of the preliminary ruling,
contained in a confidential report sent only to the parties. The closely
watched verdict addressed a complaint brought against the EU by leading
GMO producers the United States, Argentina and Canada.

The European Union's opponents asserted that the moratorium, which
Brussels argued was never official, hurt their exports and was not based
on science.

Manufacturers of the biotech seeds, designed to increase yields and
resist pests better than normal seeds, maintain they are safe for human
consumption.

European consumers, fearing the effects of "Frankenstein foods" have
resisted them. Even African countries facing food shortages, such as
Zambia, have refused to accept gene-altered food donations, arguing
their safety had not been ascertained.

Those countries that take in GMO-food demand stringent certifications
and milling before it arrives on their borders.

Regional heavyweight South Africa is one of the few countries on the
continent to embrace the controversial technology.


SIGNAL TO REST OF THE WORLD

Campaigners and analysts saw the US using the World Trade Organization
ruling to press Africans to accept GMO food imports on the basis that
Europe, which has usually backed the obstinate African position, will
itself have to take them.

"Politically, I think it is very clear that the US will try and use this
case to force GMO's into African markets. American industry is already
saying that the result is a signal to the rest of the world," Daniel
Mittler, trade adviser at Greenpeace International, told Reuters by telephone.

"They are implying that while the EU may be able to resist an outlawing
of national bans on GMO's, developing countries will not and will have
to open their markets," Mittler said.

Africans argue that better technology to increase irrigation, more
widespread use of fertilisers and pesticides, and improved monitoring of
market trends will help deliver improved harvests and defeat hunger.

"It is obvious to everyone that the US will interpret the WTO ruling as
a message to Africans that it is now time to eat GMO's and stop the
noise-making ... after all, the EU has been put on a leash in the
matter," said an agriculture consultant in Malawi, one of the countries
that often require food aid.

But Zambian minister Sikatana said there was no looking back: "We made a
decision based on facts and those facts have not changed. We hope no one
in Africa feels they have to change their views based on that ruling, it
will not do."

- Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard in Johannesburg


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