20 December 2002
ITALY: GM IN 40% OF FOOD?/FOOD AID/MALAWI
"The hope of the industry is that over time the market is so flooded [with GMOs] that there's nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender." Don Westfall, biotech industry consultant and vice-president of Promar International, Toronto Star, January 9 2001
"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, [Neil E. Harl, a professor of economics at Iowa State University] said: 'I'm not sure that is going too far.' "
1.ITALY: GM IN 40% OF FOOD IN PIEMONTE
2.US embassy's letter wrong
3.Malawi: Farmers' Use of GM Seed 'Could Disturb Ecosystem'
1.ITALY: GM IN 40% OF FOOD IN PIEMONTE
Posted December 19, 2002
According to public health laboratory tests in Piemonte: in 40% of food products it examined were found to have some GM content.
Results of the tests by Arpa and the Istituto Zooprofilattico have been released in Turin.
The scientists said that it is difficult to determine where the contamination occurs in the food chain; in some cases it could have been accidental, coming from other transgenic cultivations in the vicinity. It would also be useful to have some regular analysis of seeds arriving through the ports, mainly at Ravenna and Genoa.
2.GM: the plot thickens
Friday December 20, 2002
In reply to the US embassy's letter (December 19), a 2001 American Corn Growers Association (www.acga.org) survey of grain storage silos in 10 major maize-producing states confirmed that more than 100 required segregation of genetically modified (GM) varieties from non-GM varieties. USDA figures state that last year only 30% of US maize planted was GM varieties. When Zambian scientists recently visited the US at the behest of the government, US agronomist Dr Charles Benbrook told them the US does have GM-free maize for African countries, but refuses to supply it.
South African newspaper reports have confirmed ships in Durban harbour with US maize for famine victims. There have further been photos in our newspapers of starving people on the side of the road picking up kernels of "GM maize from the US" that have fallen from passing trucks. One of the greatest fears of African states is that GM maize will be planted instead of eaten, and this will contaminate and destroy Africa's GM-free export markets. Reports from Malawi in the last few days indicate that it has just run out of seed, which means Malawian farmers will turn to the black market and buy GM food aid to use as maize seed.
Could the corporate-dominated US government be involved in a conspiracy to contaminate the world's crops with GM varieties, thereby preventing consumers having the choice of GM-free food?
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
3.Farmers' Use of GM Seed 'Could Disturb Ecosystem'
(AANA) December 23 - Malawi's farmers risk disturbing the ecosystem as they ignore experts' warning not to use the Genetically Modified (GM) maize seed that the government is distributing for free to alleviate critical hunger ravaging the country which is among the famine hardest hit states in southern Africa.
Following two seasons of poor harvest due to erratic weather conditions, up to 70 percent of Malawi's 12 million people are facing acute food shortage while a survey conducted by local non governmental organisations reported that some 500 people starved to death this year.
The government is to import 250,000 metric tonnes of genetically modified maize while the United States government and the World Food Programme WFP are making substantial donations of maize to contain the crisis.
For the past months the government has embarked on civic education to sensitise farmers not to use relief maize for planting. They have been alerted about the dangers it can cause to the environment while the controversy on the health risks to human consumption rages on.
Some NGOs and civil society are spreading the message for the targeted population not to accept the GM maize. Similar resistance was reported in neighbouring Zambia and Zimbabwe where consumption is being discouraged.
The first incident was reported in Blantyre district where a family planted 25 kilogrammes of the seed, prompting reaction from the community. Irate villagers threatened the family, uprooting the planted maize.
A villager, Mary Jonto, told local newspapers she decided to use the maize for seed because of delays arising in the distribution of free seeds by the government.
"I saw that the rains had started but the seed was still not forthcoming," Jonto told the paper. She soaked the maize in water to find out if it could germinate since agricultural advisors had warned that GM seed do not re-germinate once planted.
"After a few days the maize germinated, and I saw no reason why not to plant," she added. Following the development, the government suspended the distribution exercise until the relief maize was milled to prevent leakages that could see more people planting the seed.
The Minister for Agriculture, Aleke Banda, said: "After several weeks sensitising the people, I could not expect some farmers to ignore the instructions. I appeal to all Malawians to report any farmers to agricultural extension workers when spotted". He said free maize and fertilizer would be made available soon..
The milling of the GM maize is also to start soon, according to Banda, but will be restricted to millers with the capacity as a control measure to check against abuse.