| Maybe Mugabe is not Mad (Just Bad),|
|31 Jul 2002 @ 23:41, by Max Tobin|
Food stocks are running out across Southern Africa:
by March 2003 the numbers of people facing starvation will be:
6 million in Zimbabwe/3.2 m. in Malawi/2.4 m. in Zambia/over .5 m. in
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"It is highly unethical not to just cover the costs for milling," said
Thompson, the Arizona professor. "Tell me how much it costs to drop one
bomb on Afghanistan. Who is starving whom here?"
Starved for Food, Zimbabwe Rejects U.S. Biotech Corn
By Rick Weiss
July 31, 2002
Thousands of tons of U.S. emergency food aid destined for crisis-stricken
Zimbabwe has been diverted to other countries, and a new shipload may be
diverted within days, because the donations include genetically modified
corn that the Zimbabwean government does not want to accept.
The image of a nation on the brink of starvation turning down food
because it has been genetically engineered has reignited a
long-smoldering scientific and political controversy over the risks and
benefits of gene-altered food.
Some biotech advocates are criticizing the Zimbabwean government for
balking at the humanitarian assistance, saying President Robert Mugabe
seems to care more about his political independence than his citizens'
lives. About half of Zimbabwe's 12 million residents are on the verge of
famine because of drought and political mismanagement, according to the
But other scientists and economists say the troubled African nation has
good reason to reject the engineered kernels. If some of the corn seeds
are sown instead of eaten, the resulting plants will produce gene-altered
pollen that will blow about and contaminate surrounding fields.
That could render much of the corn grown in Zimbabwe -- a nation that in
most years is a major exporter -- unshippable to nations in Europe and
elsewhere that restrict imports of bioengineered food, because of
environmental and health concerns.
The United States could save lives and avert a potential ecological
crisis by paying to have the corn kernels milled before they enter
Zimbabwe, several experts said this week. But relief officials said U.S.
food agencies typically don't cover milling expenses, which are
estimated at $25 per metric ton -- a significant expense for a nation so
That response has fueled suspicion among some observers in the United
States and Africa that Washington is using the food crisis to get U.S.
gene-altered products established in a corner of the world that has
largely resisted them.
"The U.S. is using its power to impose its view that modified maize is
not a danger," said Carol Thompson, a political economist at Northern
Arizona University in Flagstaff, who has spent much of the past 10 years
Zimbabwe and five other southern African nations -- Lesotho, Malawi,
Mozambique, Swaziland and Zambia -- face widespread food shortages after
two years of drought and floods. The U.N. World Food Program has said the
region will need 1 million metric tons of food aid in the next few
months, Only a fraction of that amount has been promised by donors so far.
The first shipload of U.S. food aid for Zimbabwe -- a landlocked nation
that is the hardest hit of the affected countries -- arrived at a
Tanzanian port in June. It was carrying about 10,000 metric tons of corn
from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
But the corn, which in Africa is known as maize and is valued by agencies
at about $95 a metric ton, was not welcome. Like most corn stores in the
United States, the shipment was a mix of conventional varieties and
high-tech kernels bearing bacterial genes to protect against insect pests.
The Zimbabwean government, which for decades has supported the
development of corn varieties suited to local ecosystems, is concerned
not only about genetic contamination, but also about intellectual
property issues. Pending changes in international trade rules, backed by
the United States, could preclude farmers from saving the patented seeds
from biotech harvests for replanting in following years, a practice
vital to many subsistence farmers who cannot afford to buy new seed
"If these crops get in, then farmers basically lose their rights to their
own agricultural resources," said Carole Collins, senior policy analyst
for the Washington-based Africa Faith and Justice Network.
Moreover, some European countries want to ban imports of cattle that have
been fed engineered corn, posing another potential trade problem for
Zimbabwe if engineered kernels were to swamp the country.
When notified of the June shipment, officials told the United Nations
that, although the country was not absolutely rejecting the aid, it
preferred that the corn be milled first so no seeds could be planted.
That response got to the U.N. two days after World Food Program officials
decided to unload the kernels and ship them to Malawi, said Judith Lewis,
the program's regional director for southern and eastern Africa. Malawi
is among the poorest of southern African nations and does not have a firm
policy on gene-altered food.
Now a second ship of Zimbabwe-bound U.S. corn has arrived, this time in
the South African port of Durban. It includes 17,500 metric tons of corn
kernels, and USAID wants a decision from Zimbabwe by tomorrow, Lewis
said. Zimbabwean officials discussed their options yesterday without
reaching a decision, and were scheduled to have further meetings today.
USAID representatives have expressed frustration with this and previous
situations like it. When India balked over a humanitarian shipment of
gene-altered food, one U.S. official was quoted as saying, "Beggars can't
At a news conference in Johannesburg on Friday, Roger Winter, USAID's
assistant administrator for humanitarian assistance, suggested that
Zimbabwe had little choice if it wanted to feed its people. "We have no
substitute for that maize. That maize is what's available," he said.
Indeed, very little nonengineered corn is segregated from high-tech
varieties during the U.S. harvest, and that portion sells at a premium to
organic food processors and others.
Per Pinstrup-Andersen, director general of the International Food Policy
Research Institute, a Washington-based nongovernmental organization, said
Zimbabwe was using the food to play politics.
"I think the Zimbabwe government is using this to show its muscle against
the United States and other Western countries because of the criticism
the president has been receiving from outside," Pinstrup-Andersen said,
referring to widespread criticism of Mugabe's recent land-reform policies
and accusations of government cronyism. "I think it is irresponsible . .
. unless they know they can get enough food from elsewhere that is not
Mugabe has said he is being prudent. "We fight the present drought with
our eyes clearly set on the future of the agricultural sector, which is
the mainstay of our economy," he told Zimbabwe's parliament on July 23.
"We dare not endanger its future through misplaced decisions based on
acts of either desperation or expediency."
Neil E. Harl, a professor of economics at Iowa State University, agreed
that much was at stake. "Pollen drift is a real problem, especially with
maize," Harl said. "It places these countries in an extremely difficult
He and several other experts recommended that the United States pay for
milling costs. "It is highly unethical not to just cover the costs for
milling," said Thompson, the Arizona professor. "Tell me how much it
costs to drop one bomb on Afghanistan. Who is starving whom here?"
Asked if people were going "too far" by saying that gene-altered
humanitarian exports were part of a strategy to spread the crops around
the world, Harl said: "I'm not sure that is going too far."
U.S. government and biotech representatives vehemently denied any such
"I don't think there is any justification to make claims like that," said
Rob Horsch, director of global technology transfer for Monsanto, the St.
Louis biotech giant that owns the rights to many biotech crop varieties.
Although the company has used private detectives to identify and
prosecute U.S. and Canadian farmers it suspects of saving patented
seeds, that policy would be adapted to accommodate local traditions in other
countries, Horsch said.
USAID officials also rejected the notion that they were strong-arming
Zimbabwe or had any agenda other than feeding the needy.
With food shortages increasing every day, some U.S. officials said late
yesterday that they believed Zimbabwe was on the verge of accepting the
1 Aug 2002 @ 19:01 by : Frankly
Those evil USA corporate bastards, how dare they first cause people to suffer then try to send them altered food, they did this in Peru too, and the crap has contaminated all the wild crops. Monsanto has no right even making the stuff, let alone forcing people to buy thier product. They contaminate the crops with thier product and claim that you stole thier patent. I will personaly take them to hell and fry them. Good thing Im not God. And you know what else? Monsanto is buying up all sorts of water wells all over the planet, one by one, then they can do what they did out here, slapping on metters and charging for water you pull from your own well, because some geologist suposedly found that those wells where pulling water from the Verde River aquafer 20 miles away, its bs and a lie, but can the simple homeowner check the info?, hell no, since they cant even afford a satilite, or even hire an outside geologist, they cant legaly put a dye in said aquafer to see if it accually shows up in thier wells even though it's common practice for the gov geologist to do so. Those batards will burn in hell for thier crimes.
1 Aug 2002 @ 23:46 by scottj : And if they arent stopped in
time that burnin hell will be coming here to Planet Earth to deal with them. That is horrendous news about Monsanto buying up water wells - a nightmare awaits, but who can say supporting the corporate system can in any way serve their personal interests? The journeyment of corporate materialism should start to realise this and consider their alternatives before it is too late. A General Strike against Materialism is the only answer.
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