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Sunday, 8 September, 2002, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Zambia allows GM aid for refugees
Zimbabwean woman sits by relief food in the Nhwali area
Zimbabwe and Zambia are hit by a region-wide crisis
Zambia has allowed the World Food Programme to start distributing genetically modified (GM) food aid to refugees.

James Morris, the UN agency's executive director, told the BBC that GM foods were being used to feed about 130,000 refugees from Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo.


They have given us permission... to feed refugees here in Zambia and we are now feeding about 130,000

James Morris
But the Zambian Government is continuing to resist the UN agency's calls to distribute GM aid to nearly 2.5 million of its own people on the grounds that it is "poison".

Mr Morris, who is touring the famine-stricken region, confirmed that neighbouring Zimbabwe had, in contrast, approved GM aid for its people.

"Zimbabwe has said that they have taken a cabinet decision to accept commodities which have a GM component," he said.

Saying he believed that the US-produced GM corn would probably be milled before being allowed to enter the country, he added that he had had a "good conversation" about bringing in non-GM wheat.

Fact-finding team

Mr Morris said Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa - who recently described GM grain as "poison" - had decided to send a team of scientists to the US and the EU on a GM fact-finding mission.

The WFP executive director said famine could be averted in southern Africa if GM grain was accepted and warned of the daunting prospects for Zambia if it continued to refuse it.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa
Mwanawasa: There's no justification for feeding people 'poison'
"Without being able to use biotech GM commodities, it will be nearly impossible for us to meet the needs of the people of Zambia," he said.

Zambia's minister for agriculture has explained his country's continuing doubts in an interview for the BBC.

"Several countries, including Europe, are still reluctant, cautious, about the acceptance of GM organisms," said Mundia Sikatana.

Zambian producers could find their exports to Europe blocked if their crops were found to be growing alongside GM grains, he argued.


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03 Sep 02 | Africa
06 Sep 02 | Africa
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