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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Zambia warned over GM refusal
Woman eats masau wild fruit
Food is scarce in Zambia
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 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

WFP southern Africa director Judith Lewis

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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17 Aug 02 | Africa
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