From Thu May 6 10:45:15 2004
Date: Wed, 5 May 2004 02:25:47 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: African groups criticise U.S. over GMO food aid
Article: 179407
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

African groups criticise U.S. over GMO food aid

Reuters, 4 May 2004

JOHANNESBURG, May 4 (Reuters)—Some 60 African farm campaigners criticised the United States on Tuesday for what they said was relentless pressure on Sudan and Angola to accept gene-altered food aid to avert hunger.

In March Sudan imposed restrictions on the importation of genetically modified food aid, demanding that it be certified as GM-free first, while Angola said it wanted all GM grains milled before shipment to its hungry.

Both decisions were strongly criticised by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Food Programme (WFP) and constant pressure has been applied in both countries to remove the restrictions, the groups said.

The scenario presented by WFP and USAID to these African countries is either they accept GM food or face dire consequences. These actions are totally unacceptable.

Those who signed the statement were farmer, consumer, environment and development groups and included South Africa-based African Centre for Biosafety and Biowatch, Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Namibia's Earthlife Africa and Sudan's Ecoterra.

A WFP spokesman in South Africa said the U.N. agency respected national legislation regarding gene-altered foods and had sought alternatives when governments refused to accept GM food, as Zambia did in 2002.

We abide by a country's legislation. We have sent milled grains to countries that demanded it such as Zimbabwe and sent GM-free food to Zambia when it banned GM maize, Richard Lee, a WFP spokesman in South Africa, told Reuters.

A USAID official was not available to comment.

GM food aid is a controversial subject in southern Africa, where half a dozen countries faced severe food shortages in 2002 and 2003 mainly because of a drought and poor farm policies.

The 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) recommends that its members accept milled GM grains.

Food shortages in parts of Sudan are blamed on weather as well as two decades of civil war. The groups said they wanted Sudan, Angola and other countries that faced shortages to be allowed choice in whether or not to accept GM food aid.