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Africa becomes GE food dumping ground

On 17 Jun 2002 at 16:43, GENET wrote:

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  We must guard against modified foods
SOURCE: The Nation, Kenya, by John Kamau
DATE:   June 10, 2002

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We must guard against modified foods

Because of the on-going Mugabe-bashing campaign by the Western media,
important issues are being mixed up and decisions downplayed.

The latest is Zimbabwe's rejection of genetically modified foods which had
been donated by the United States to help Harare combat hunger. According
to the Western media, it is Mugabe who wants to kill his own people by
rejecting food aid.

It is true that thousands of Zimbabweans (and other southern Africa
populations) are being ravaged by a famine brought about by drought in the
entire region. But anybody taking advantage of such a situation  whether
African, Russian or British  to dump genetically modified foods on the
starving populations is the real enemy. Here is why?

Many varieties of GM foods have been rejected in the West. in fact, they
have to be labelled as such so that anybody eating them is well aware of
the possible side-effects. There is a major campaign in those countries to
enlighten their people on GM foods; an advantage we do not enjoy in Africa.

So why give these foods to a hungry community deep in Africa? Of course
some "wise" people will say "food is food", but hungry as we may be, we
cannot afford to be turned into guinea pigs.

Attempts to lure Africa

The little we know about GM foods is that we know nothing about their side-
effects. And that is the point Dr Mugabe's government has made. If food is
being given in good faith, let it be real food not the results of
Frankenstein experiments.

This is not the first time Western nations have taken advantage of Third
World calamities to dump such foods there. According to South Africa's
Biowatch: "Africa is treated as the dustbin of the world...To donate
untested food and seed to Africa is not an act of kindness but an attempt
to lure Africa into further dependence on foreign aid."

Shortly after the 2000 Orissa cyclone in India, environmental activists
found out that a huge proportion of the "donated food" had been genetically
engineered. This forced a prominent Indian environmentalist, Dr Vandana
Shiva, of the country's Research Foundation for Science, Technology and
Ecology, to accuse the US of using victims of the cyclone  one of the most
powerful to hit India in a century  as "guinea pigs".

Dr Shiva accused the US of trying to create a market for its biotech
industry outside its territory. Between 1999-2000, some 30 per cent of
500,000 tons of maize and maize products "donated" by the United States
Agency for International Development (USAid) to relief agencies, including
the World Food Programme, procured under contract with US agribusiness
firms, were surplus GM grain stocks.

And this food is never subjected to any test because many African nations
have no policy on GM foods.

Recently, Agriculture Minister Bonaya Godana said Kenya was "cautious" that
genetic modification could have a "negative impact".

"We are working on a policy to govern administration of this technology" he
said, apparently after realising that lack of such a policy leaves us
greatly vulnerable.

We have to be extra cautious on what we take as food aid because anything
can be sneaked into our midst. In Sudan, expired drugs were found in a
large donation. Some of dangerous drugs had already been supplied to
southern Sudan.

Britain is also known to have off-loaded tens of thousands of tons of
potentially BSE-infected cattle feed in the Third World after deciding such
feed was too dangerous for herds in the UK. The bone meal was exported
after March, 1988, when the British Government realised that feed made from
slaughtered animals was the probable cause of the BSE epidemic (mad cow
disease) among UK herds. In July that year, the Government banned its use
in Britain, and a week later, officially informed the European Union of its

But it wasn't until March, 1996  eight years later  that a worldwide ban
on the export of MBM, as it was called, came into force. Most of the cargo
had been taken to Third World countries by then (Kenya was mentioned as one
importer during the inquiry). This is public knowledge today.

Rigged Rules and Double Standards

A recent Oxfam report titled "Rigged Rules and Double Standards," shows
that 128 million people could be lifted out of poverty if trade rules
allowed Africa, Latin America, East Asia and South Asia to increase their
share of world exports by just one per cent. In Africa, says Oxfam, doing
so would generate over $100 billion  five times what the continent
receives in aid and debt relief. If we only got an extra one per cent, we
would buy our own food. But these issues are usually downplayed as politics
of trade take a back seat.

GM crops, we have to understand, are part of the industrialised nations'
hypocrisy. They have been subsidising their agribusiness to the tune of
$1.5 billion a day and the surpluses are dumped into world markets,
depressing prices and destroying local markets.

If wheat is dumped in Kenya, farmers in Kitale will abandon their farms,
then we will begin to import GM foods.

We are now reading stories on how the European Union is dumping surplus
milk onto the Jamaican economy, ruining the local dairy industry, and how
the US has dumped subsidised rice in Haiti, forcing thousands of poor rice
farmers off the land. Soon, Jamaicans will start importing milk all the way
from Europe.

As the widespread rejection of GM foods by European consumers continues,
Africa must protect her own so that the surplus grain is not brought in as
food aid.


|                   GENET                     |
| European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering |
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