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Wednesday, 11 September, 2002, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Zambia denies 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 denied reports from the World Food Programme (WFP) that it was allowing genetically modified food aid into the country for refugees.


The position of government rejecting GMF's was a national one which applies to all categories of persons living in Zambia

Lackson Mapushi Home Affairs Minister
On Sunday, the head of the WFP, James Morris, told the BBC that GM foods were being used to feed about 130,000 refugees from Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Home Affairs Minister Lackson Mapushi told state television nearly 7,000 tons of GM maize would be withdrawn from refugee camps and substituted with a non-GM variant.

Around 2.5 million Zambians are facing famine after failed harvests but President Levy Mwanawasa has blocked GM food aid to feed them, calling it "poison".

Exports threatened

"The position of government rejecting GMF's was a national one which applies to all categories of persons living in Zambia," Mr Mapushi said.

"This applies to all refugees, including those living in camps and receiving food aid from the WFP," the minister added.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa
Mwanawasa: There's no justification for feeding people 'poison'

Neighbouring Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique also have deep concerns that GM food aid could be used to grow new crops and so enter the local food chain.

This could jeopardise exports to Europe, where GM food is less common than in the United States.

But it is the US which has supplied most food aid for the WFP's appeal for southern Africa, where around 13 million people risk starvation.

And most US aid contains GM food.

US officials deny that there is any risk involved with GM food and point out that it is eaten every day by millions of Americans.

Food raid

The other countries have now decided to accept GM aid provided it is first milled, so that it cannot be planted.

And Mr Morris has urged Zambia to follow suit.

"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.

Some Zambians disagree with the government's position.

Hungry villagers recently raided a chief's palace and stole GM food, which the authorities were refusing to distribute.


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08 Sep 02 | Africa
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