5 August 2002
DIGNITY IN HUNGER
The editorial below, 'Dignity in hunger', from the Zambian press, questions US motivation in seeking to impose GE maize in the assistance its offering to a country threatened with serious hunger.
While one can only admire the sense of resolve apparent in the editorial, it's important to be clear that absolutely nobody wants to see hungry people left to starve and nobody is for a moment suggesting to the people of Southern Africa that they should refuse aid.
What people are concerned about is evidence that the dilemma that Zambia is facing may be one of the US's making. CropChoice editor, Robert Schubert, for example, has challenged the claim that only GE maize is available in the US. He points out that 70% of the US's maize is, in fact, GE free and that extensive segregation is already occurring. So why is it so difficult to offer Africa that? Milling the maize would also help ensure there was no contamination of local crops. [Offer African countries the non-biotech corn
Far from respecting the concerns of African countries on this issue, however, the Zambian government has said that the US is actually setting as a condition for any financcial assistance that it is used specifically to purchase GE grain. The inevitable suspicion in such circumstances is that what the US is doing is either trying to force a pattern of acceptance of GE maize, or else dumping GE food on Africa that it cannot sell to anyone else. Some also suspect that the US is prepared to contaminate Africa's maize in the same way that it has Mexico's.
As the article says, "AID and general assistance in times of need is an appreciated gesture. But this kind of gesture can only be appreciated if indeed it is genuine and aimed at helping to alleviate the sufferings of recipients." And, "If the US insists on imposing this genetically modified maize on our people, we will be justified in questioning their motive."
Dignity in hunger
The Post, Zambia, Editorial, July 30, 2002
AID and general assistance in times of need is an appreciated gesture. But this kind of gesture can only be appreciated if indeed it is genuine and aimed at helping to alleviate the sufferings of recipients.
Today, Zambia like most countries in the South African region is faced with a major humanitarian crisis. This crisis without the necessary support from all external partners may result in a serious catastrophe ever faced by the nation in which over two million people are threatened with famine and starvation.
After a disastrous farming season caused by natural weather phenomenon and compounded by the poor policies of Frederick Chiluba's administration, we still feel that Zambians need to have dignity even in times of suffering and hunger.
It is a fact that the agricultural sector had been on the decline due to the several poor policies that were implemented by Chiluba's government.
Chiluba had managed to reduce Zambia's agricultural potential from being self sustaining to being dependent on food imports.
Even the move to establish the Food Reserve Agency to enhance food security has been a lamentable failure and left farmers in a more desperate situation.
There is no doubt that this desperate situation in the agricultural sector calls for immediate corrective measures. But while this is being done, there is a serious threat of hunger to be addressed, also urgently.
Zambia has a large maize deficit and needs assistance which under our situation can only be offered by the international community and partners.
Zambia's plea for aid has been well received and we appreciate the international community's favourable response to this crisis that is currently brewing.
But as they offer their assistance, they should also acknowledge that even the beggars deserve some dignity.
Of concern to most Zambians and all other countries affected by the food deficit in the region is the issue of the Genetically Modified Maize from the US.
While the gesture of assistance may be well meant, it is a matter of concern that the US has set as a condition that it would only provide funds to purchase the genetically modified grain. However, the worry among Zambians and most people in the world is the effect of this same unnatural food on human beings.
What the people are simply asking, and the US should appreciate the concerns, is whether this food is safe for their consumption and if at all this food would have further adverse effects on humanity.
It is in this vein that we support President Levy Mwanawasa's position on the genetically modified food offers currently being made.
President Mwanawasa deserves support for his statement on behalf of the hungry Zambians, that we would rather starve than feed on the genetically modified food before conclusive investigations on its effects are established.
President Mwanawasa has clearly stated that before Zambia accepts the grain, government needs to consult and examine the maize and "if it is not fit then we would rather starve."
What is of paramount importance is the safety of the nationals. If the US insists on imposing this genetically modified maize on our people, we will be justified in questioning their motive.