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WFP: Zambia Must Accept Biotech Food (Read 71 times)

Posts: 85
WFP: Zambia Must Accept Biotech Food
Aug 23rd, 2002 at 11:49pm
Saturday August 24, 2002, Guardian UK

GENEVA (AP) - Zambia will have to accept donations of genetically modified food if it wants United Nations help to feed its starving population, the head of the U.N. food agency said Friday.

"There is no way that the World Food Program can provide the resources to feed these starving people without using food that has some biotech content," James Morris told reporters.

To underscore the point, Morris released a joint policy statement of the major U.N. food and health agencies - the World Food Program, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization - saying they believe genetically modified foods are safe.

The statement was issued amid debate about the use of biotech goods in food aid, particularly in southern Africa, where nearly 13 million people are at risk of starvation.

The WFP estimates that almost 2.5 million people in Zambia alone could starve if they do not receive urgent aid. But the Zambian government so far has refused to accept donations of food that is genetically modified. That includes food from the United States, which currently is supplying three-quarters of the food WFP has to distribute.

Zambia is concerned that the food may be a health risk, or that grains of cereal may be used for planting, contaminating crops that are not genetically modified and risking trade with the European Union. The EU has strict rules on imports of biotech crops.

"We respect their right to not use what we bring," Morris said. But, he added, "if external food resources are not made available for them, there will be widespread starvation and ultimately death, no question."

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Zambia must take GM crops or starve

BBC - Two and a half million people could starve if the Zambian Government continues to refuse genetically modified food aid, the World Food Programme has warned.

Executive director James Morris said that as concerns about the food appeared to have been allayed in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, Zambia remained the only one of six southern African countries facing severe famine.

The WFP estimates 13 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique face starvation due to drought and disease, which have devastated crops.

Mr Morris says the WFP is confident the food aid is safe.

The World Health Organisation also says it does not constitute a danger to people's health.

Export fears

70% of the genetically modified food has been donated by the United States, where is not separated from other crops.

Mr Morris, an American, said the food was eaten by "280 million Americans and 75 million Canadians".

Zimbabwe and Mozambique have agreed to mill whole grains to prevent contamination.

But it will cost them 25 a metric ton - a heavy price, said Mr Morris.

The Zambian Government remains concerned contaminated crops will endanger the country's future export markets in the European Union.

It has asked the WFP not to distribute about 12,000 tons of US maize that is already in the country.

President Levy Mwanawasa says his government has no scientific evidence it was safe for human consumption.

Commercial aims

State radio also said Zambia would launch a fresh appeal for non-GM maize.

Activists at Johannesburg's World Summit for Sustainable Development are urging governments not to legitimise the use of genetically modified crops, saying the technology was not a tool suited for sustainable agriculture, and they would oppose any summit outcome promoting its use.

But WFP southern Africa director Judith Lewis has rejects allegations that international institutions are trying to further commercial aims.

"The suggestion the WFP is colluding with the biotech industry to impose unwanted maize on the people of southern Africa can find no currency except with the most extreme elements of the GM controversy," she told South African daily newspaper The Star.

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Zambia rejects of Genetically Modified maize
Reply #1 - Aug 24th, 2002 at 12:22am

PRESIDENT Levy Mwanawasa has saild Government's rejection of Genetically Modified maize does not warrant a smear campaign from some donors who are now exaggerating the extent of hunger in the country.

Mr Mwanawasa said contrary to assertions by some donors, it was not true that 2 million Zambians face starvation now that Government had rejected the GM maize.

Speaking in Sinazongwe at the start of his tour of Southern Province yesterday, the President warned that Government may be forced to give matching orders to such donors if reports that 2 million Zambians may die of starvation persist.

"If these people think we have committed a sin to reject the GMOs, then they should go before we give them matching orders," the President said when he addressed Sinazongwe residents yesterday.

Mr Mwanawasa said if the donors had information that some people in areas they know were dying of hunger, they should go to his office where upon he would give them relief food.

"If these people know who is starving because of lack of food, let them come to me and say so and so is starving. We will give them relief food to give those people," Mr Mwanawasa said.

The President said the government's decision to reject the GMOs did not mean that the country undermined the people who offered her food.

He said the decision was made in the interest of the public and he did not have any regrets for taking such a stance.

Mr Mwanawasa stated that no one would die of hunger for as long as the MMD government remained in office.

Mr Mwanawasa underscored Government's decision to provide for the hungry when he announced that 100 metric tonnes of maize had been supplied to Sinazongwe while 150 tonnes were destined for Choma.

The President wondered how else the country could have accepted GMOs when in fact these foods had been rejected in Europe.

"If Europe has rejected the GMOs why should we accept them just because we are poor," Mr Mwanawasa asked.

Mr Mwanawasa said if Zambia produced GMOs, Europe would have been the first to reject the items.

He said Zambia should be proud that her agriculture products were accepted in Europe because they were not genetically modified.

Mr Mwanawasa urged the people of Sinazongwe to work hard and ensure there was food throughout the year to feed themselves.

He said it was a shame that despite having been independent for the past 37 years, Zambia depended on food imports.

Mr Mwanawasa said the winter maize project going on in the area should be supported because it would create employment and ensure food security.

He warned the people not to steal the produce from Agriflora because doing so would frustrate investors who may end up leaving the area.

Mr Mwanawasa said he was impressed with the performance of the winter maize project in Sinazongwe.

And KELVIN CHONGO reports that Agriflora general manager Niel Sledge said their farm was making K400 million per day in agricultural products exported to European markets representing sales of K12 billion per month.

Mr Sledge said the company supported the government's efforts and policy on agriculture.

Speaking when he took President Mwanawasa on a conducted tour of the farm, Mr Sledge said the farm has employed 7,000 workers and at full scale can produce 20,000 metric tonnes of winter maize and a similar quantity of rain-fed maize.

He said from the current winter maize grown, his company would produce 800 metric tonnes of maize.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Mundia Sikatana said he was happy with the project because it had also guaranteed employment throughout the year to the villagers.

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« Last Edit: Aug 24th, 2002 at 8:14am by Ayinde »  
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Re: Zambia must NOT take GM crops
Reply #2 - Aug 24th, 2002 at 9:42am
by Pianke Nubiyang


One may not believe their eyes after reading this (AFRICANS OF SOUTHERN AFRICA, TROPICAL AFRICA, INDIA, THE WORLD, LISTEN GOOD).

According to the September issue of Scientific American Magazine, seed companies and their scientists are now thinking about developing genetically engineered seeds, from natural foods found in the tropics. These seeds will only be capable of producing foods ONCE, and the genetic engineers will have the power to sell more seeds, while the local seeds would become contaminated and local farmers would have to depend on foreign companies for their seeds.

In California, there is about 11 months of dry weather. In fact much of California is in the high mountains or desert regions, some of it is near the coasts or the far north. Yet, most of California's best land is in regions that were dry lake beds or deserts that are sometimes identical in looks to parts of West Africa Sahel and the regions of Sudan and Southern Africa. In fact after Texas, California has the type of hot climate (110-125 degrees F, that one finds in parts of Africa), yet because of good and efficient irrigation, California's billion-dollar industry is agricultural produce. (hear this African leaders...West Indians others...its agriculture)

Therefore, the idea of taking African seeds and having foreign scientists genetically engineer seeds to produce only once is really committing genocide. How can any nation on earth agree to this scheme of destruction and dependence?

Here is the scheme again. Seed producing companies and scientists are planning to create genetically engineered seeds that will produce crops only once. After that, nations will have to depend on the seed companies to create more seeds, because the crop seeds will not be of any use.


In stead of creating seeds that self-destruct after one planting, so that farmers will be held like slaves to the producers of seeds that originated in tropical lands, farmers around the world should unite and work to stop the attempt to control the production of food by a few people. Let's get farmers and Ministers of Agriculture from Africa, the Caribbean, China, Europe, America, Australia and other lands to unite on this issue.

Farmers are the people who keep the world alive. If there were no farming, civilization would not exist. Farmers, especially Black farmers in the U.S., some White family farmers in the U.S. and Europe, farmers of China, Japan, India, Africa, the Caribbean and around the world are a breed of people who make great sacrifices, and many of us have seen what they have to go through on the news or read it in the paper. Imagine being a farmer in Trinidad and Jamaica, St. Lucia or Haiti and planting a crop, tending it and watching it get near harvest, only to have a hurricane wipe it out. That is heart breaking. Imagine you are a farmer in Europe and floods destroy all your livestock and crops. Imagine a farmer in China having to cut down because its not attracting people, who prefer to move in the cities. Imagine a Midwestern U.S. farmer selling his equipment due to being broke. Imagine peasant farmers in parts of Southern Africa having no land and have to work on the farm of foreigners like semi-slaves for a few dollars, while a few people control the entire system of agriculture.


Farmers and governments in Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, Latin America and elsewhere should be very careful about the trickery of selling their national heritage in the form of seeds, so that companies can control the food supply of the entire world and hold the rest of humanity hostage with their scheme to genetically modify seeds and crops.
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An ordinary miracle
Reply #3 - Aug 24th, 2002 at 8:32pm
Fred Pearce, New Scientist
February 3, 2001

ACROSS East Africa, thousands of farmers are planting weeds in their maize fields. Bizarre as it sounds their technique is actually raising yields by giving the insect pests something else to chew on besides maize. "It's better than pesticides, and a lot cheaper," said Ziadin Khan, whose idea it is, as he showed me round his demonstrations plots at the Mbita Point research station on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya.

"And it has raised farm yields round here by 60 to 70 per cent."

His novel method of fighting pests is one of a host of low-tech innovations boosting production by 100 per cent or more on millions of poor Third World farms in the past decade. This "sustainable agriculture" just happens to be the biggest movement in Third World farming today, dwarfing the tentative forays in genetic manipulation. It seems peasant farmers have a long way to go before they exhaust the possibilities of traditional agriculture and have to place their futures in the hands of genetic engineers. In east Africa, maize fields face two major pests, and Khan has a solution to both. The first is an insect called the stem borer. True to its name, its larvae eat their way through a third of the region's maize most years. But Khan discovered that the borer is even fonder of a local weed, napier grass. By planting napier grass in their fields, farmers can lure the stem borers away from the maize - and into a honey-trap. For the grass produces a sticky substance that traps and kills stem borer larvae. The second major pest is "Striga", a parasitic plant that wrecks dollar 10 billion worth of maize crops every year, threatening the livelihoods of 100 million Africans.

Weeding "Striga" is one of the most time-consuming activities for millions of African women farmers, says Khan. But he has an antidote: another weed, called "Desmodium". "It seems to release some sort of chemical that "Striga" doesn't like. At any rate, where farmers plant "Desmodium" between rows of maize, "Striga" won't grow."

Khan's cheap fixes for "Striga" and stem borer are spreading like wildfire through the fields of east Africa.

Trials on more than two thousand farms are finished. "It's out of our hands now," says Khan's boss, Hans Herren, who is the director of the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi. "The ideas are being taken up by farmers in countries such as Ethiopia where we have never worked." Khan, meanwhile, is going back to the wastelands of Kenya looking for more grasses to kill common pests. His miracle is one of dozens of different strategies transforming the lives of millions of poor farmers on small farms across the planet. They replace pesticides with natural predators, and fertilisers with animal dung, crop wastes and plants that fix nitrogen from the air. They choose artful combinations of crops that maximise nature's bounty. In January this year the world's largest study into sustainable agriculture was published. Jules Pretty of the University of Essex analysed more than 200 projects in 52 countries. He found that more than four million farms were involved, covering an area the size of Italy - 3 per cent of fields in the Third World. And, most remarkably, average increases in crop yields were 73 per cent. Sustainable agriculture, Pretty concludes, has most to offer to small farms that cannot afford chemical solutions to their problems. Its methods are "cheap, use locally available technology and often improve the environment. Above all they most help the people who need help the most - poor farmers and their families, who make up the majority of the world's hungry people."

And, hardly surprisingly, many of the successful techniques are now being adopted by agribusiness. Raising fish in rice paddies, for instance, began in Bangladesh but is now developing into a global industry. Khan's alternative pesticides are likewise finding a potential market on large farms anxious to cut the cost of conventional pesticides.

The success of sustainable agriculture is dispelling the myth that modern techno-farming is the most productive method, says Miguel Altieri of the University of California, Berkeley. "In Mexico, it takes 1.73 hectares of land planted with maize to produce as much food as one hectare planted with a mixture of maize, squash and beans."

The difference, he says, comes from "the reduction of losses due to weeds, insects and diseases and a more efficient use of the available resources of water, light and nutrients". Monocultures breed pests and waste resources, he says. And some experts think GM crops will pale by comparison with sustainable agriculture, at least for the time being. "I don't see GMs making an impact on food production in Africa within the next 10 or 15 years," says Herren. "What Africa most needs is investment in 'soft' biotechnologies such as alternative natural pesticides."

Researchers from the Association Tefy Saina, a Madagascan group working for local farmers, were looking for ways to boost rice yields on small farms. They decided to make the best use of existing strains rather than track down a new breed of super-rice. Through trial and error, Henri de Laulaine, a local Catholic priest, had stumbled on a system that raises typical rice yields from 3 to 12 tonnes per hectare. His trick is to transplant seedlings earlier and in small numbers so that more survive; to keep paddies unflooded for much of the growing period; and to help the plants grow using compost rather than chemical fertilisers.

Scientists have been sceptical about the ability of poor farmers to achieve such spectacular results, says the association's Sebastien Rafaralahy. Nonetheless, de Laulaine's idea has spread like wildfire: 20,000 have adopted the idea in Madagascar alone. Following a collaboration with Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, the system has been transplanted to the Asian heartland of rice cultivation. In tests, China, Indonesia and Cambodia all managed to raise their rice yields. Few countries have switched wholesale to sustainable agriculture. But Cuba has. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 cut off cheap supplies of grain, tractors and agrochemicals. Pesticide use halved overnight, as did the calorie intake of its citizens. The cash-strapped country was forced to embrace low- input farming or starve. Today, says Fernando Funes of the country's Pasture and Fodder Research Institute, teams of oxen replace the tractors, and farmers have adopted organic methods, mixing maize with beans and cassava and doubling yields in the process, helping average calorie intake per person rise back to pre-1990 levels. Worldwide, one of the most widely adopted sustainable techniques has been to throw away the plough, the ultimate symbol of the farmer. Ploughing aerates the soil, helping rot weeds and crop residues. But it can also damage soil fertility and increase erosion. Now millions of Latin American farmers have decided it isn't worth the effort. A third of Argentina's farms no longer use the plough. Instead, they fight weeds by planting winter crops such as black oats, or by spraying a biodegradable herbicide such as glyphosate.

"The farmers saw results in a short time - reduced costs, richer soils, higher grain yields and increased income," says Lauro Bassi of EPAGRI, the agricultural research institute in Santa Catarina state, southern Brazil, which has been promoting the idea. Zero-tillage also benefits the planet in general. Unploughed soils hang on to carbon that would otherwise escape into the air as carbon dioxide when organic matter rots. A one-hectare field left unploughed can absorb up to a tonne of carbon every year, says Pretty, making soils a vital element in preventing global warming.

Sustainable agriculture is no magic bullet for feeding the world. It is an approach rather than a blueprint. Small farms with low yields stand to benefit the most and agribusiness the least. But it does offer an alternative for the millions of small farms that have plenty of hands to work the land but not the skills or financial resources to adopt conventional mechanised farming. Pretty says: "Things are happening that are very exciting. If it catches on we can make substantial inroads in reducing the 800 million people who still go to bed hungry every night." Perhaps the most dramatic evidence of its success so far, he adds, is that little of the extra produce ever finds its way to distant supermarkets while the farmers starve. Most of it is eaten by the people who grow it.
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Zambia Rejects U.N. Food Appeal
Reply #4 - Aug 25th, 2002 at 12:32pm
Sun Aug 25, 7:08 AM ET
By MIKE COHEN, Associated Press Writer, (Yahoo News)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) - Zambia has rejected a U.N. appeal to distribute genetically modified food, saying it would procure enough other grain to feed its starving people. 

Aid agencies estimate that almost 2.5 million Zambians are in danger of starvation if they do not receive urgent aid.

"We have the situation under control," Zambian Agriculture Minister Mundia Sikatana said Saturday. "We don't need to engage the biotechnology at this stage. We are assisting (hungry people) with help from well-wishers and are overwhelmed by the response."

Zambia has refused to accept donations of genetically modified food and has said the food may be a health risk. It has also expressed concern that Zambians may try to plant the biotech grains of cereal, contaminating the country's , contaminating crops that are not genetically modified.

The major U.N. food and health agencies the World Food Program, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization released a policy statement Friday saying as far as they were concerned genetically modified foods were safe.

"There is no way that the World Food Program can provide the resources to feed these starving people without using food that has some biotech content," spokesman James Morris told reporters.

But Sikatana said the safety of the grain remained unproven.

"We cannot be so irresponsible so as to risk the lives of innocent people," he said in a telephone interview. "We have measures in place to cover (food needs for) the period up to the next harvest."

Zambia is concerned genetically modified food may be putting at risk trade with the European Union and other countries that have strict rules on biotech crops.

"If we engage in GM our exports will be thrown overboard (and) that will cost thousands of jobs," Sikatana said. "We know that the situation is critical (and) we know that we are making sufficient efforts to ensure nobody will starve."

On Wednesday the U.S. State Department called on the European Union "to join us in assuring governments in the region that food made from biotech crops is safe and should be distributed immediately to those who so desperately need it."

The EU's executive commission put out a statement Friday backing the U.S. position that the food was safe, while adding that it was "up to beneficiary countries to make an informed decision on whether to accept" the biotech food.

The United Nations estimates 12.8 million people in Zambia and five other Southern African countries Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland urgently need help to avoid mass starvation caused by erratic weather and exacerbated by government mismanagement in some countries.

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