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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 12:19 GMT
Zambia 'ignored science' over GM
Failing crops
Some 14 million are at risk of famine across the region
The United States has criticised Zambia's decision to refuse genetically-modified food aid, saying the move places even more Zambians at risk of starvation.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Zambian government had disregarded scientific evidence about the safety of the maize offered by the United States.

The Zambian Government has said its decision was based on recommendations by scientists who had studied the potential effects of importing GM crops around the world.

They reported that insufficient evidence was available to demonstrate the safety of GM food.

But the opposition in Zambia has also criticised the decision which has sparked a huge political row.

Nearly three million Zambians are facing famine which is threatening several countries in Southern Africa.


Mr Boucher said the United States was ready to provide food assistance to Zambia should it drop its opposition, and would explore alternatives to give aid that Zambia would accept, through the World Food Programme (WFP).

A leader of the UPND opposition party, Saqwibo Sikota, told the BBC's Network Africa on Wednesday that there was no scientific evidence that GM food was harmful for consumers.

"We have a lot of GMO foods already coming into Zambia and it seems a bit hypocritical to say we can't have the GMO maize," he said.

He said Zambia, like other countries in the region, could have asked for the maize to be milled beforehand, so that it could only be eaten and not planted.


The food aid was initially offered by the international community to Zambia and five other Southern African countries, but President Levy Mwanawasa referred to the food as "poison".

WFP Spokesman Richard Lee told the BBC that the decision made it very difficult to meet the needs of the Zambian people.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa
Mwanawasa: There's no justification for feeding people 'poison'
He said his organisation was already only able to feed half of the people in need, and would have to work hard to find non-GM food.

The US has supplied most food aid for the WFP's appeal for Southern Africa, where about 14 million people risk starvation.

Zambia needs 21,000 tonnes of food aid a month to feed more than 2.5 million people in the drought-hit south of the country.


Many Southern African nations have expressed 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.

Several countries affected by the crisis have refused to accept unmilled GM maize but have agreed to accept ground meal.

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.

Opposition's Saqwibo Sikota
"For a long time lag people will not have any food"
Mundia Sikatana, Zambia's agriculture minister
"We fear losing our export market that is doing so well now."
Is Zambia right to refuse GM food?



6860 Votes Cast

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