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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Zambia refuses GM 'poison'
Woman eats masau wild fruit
Harvests have failed across southern Africa
Zambia's president has refused to overturn his ban on genetically modified (GM) food aid despite the food crisis which is threatening up to 2.4 million people.

Levy Mwanawasa said he would not allow Zambians to eat "poison".


Simply because my people are hungry, that is no justification to give them poison

President Mwanawasa
Up to 13 million people face famine across southern Africa, aid agencies have warned.

But much of the food aid delivered so far has been GM maize from the United States.

Zimbabwe has also banned GM aid in case it contaminates local crops.

A deal was done with Zimbabwe, whereby GM food was milled before being distributed, so that it could not be planted.

Similar arrangements have placated fears over GM food aid in Malawi and Mozambique.

Lost markets

"Simply because my people are hungry, that is no justification to give them poison, to give them food that is intrinsically dangerous to their health," Mr Mwanawasa told journalists at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

President Levy Mwanawasa
Mwanawasa's stance is backed by Zimbabwe

Just last weekend, hungry villagers stormed a chief's palace in rural Zambia and made off with 2,000 bags of maize.

They complained that they were dying of starvation while food was lying idle.

The World Food Programme has warned Zambia to accept GM food aid due to the food crisis.

United States aid officials deny that the food is unsafe, pointing out that Americans eat GM maize every day.

The World Health Organisation has certified the grain for human consumption and says it does not constitute a danger to people's health.

But there are fears that southern African nations could lose lucrative export markets in Europe if they cannot certify that their crops are GM-free.


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17 Aug 02 | Africa
25 Jul 02 | Africa
11 Jul 02 | Africa
06 Jun 02 | Africa
30 May 02 | Africa
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