24 October 2002
WFP, FOOD AID AND GMOS - FORMER CONSULTANT TO THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME ATTACKS US AID
"”¦GM contamination level in food aid to Colombia was so high as to suggest that GMOs are purposely being dumped on unsuspecting countries"
"Dr Wilma Salgado (former consultant to the World Food Programme in Ecuador) [explains] in her article below, US food assistance to Ecuador has nearly wiped out the country's local production of wheat and rendered it dependent on wheat imports from the US, thus threatening its food security while creating a market for US exports."
1. "GMOs report finally out" - press report
2. WFP, FOOD AID AND GMOS - TWN
Part 1: GM Food Aid Row Continues
Part 2: Network for a GE Free Latin America
LETTER TO WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME
Part 3: Food assistance or export assistance?
By Dr Wilma Salgado (former consultant to the World Food Programme in Ecuador)
1. GMOs report finally out
By MUKULA MUKULA
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
GOVERNMENT has received a final report on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) from scientists who were sent to study the genetic foods outside the country.
Chief government spokesperson, Newstead Zimba said the report was currently under consideration by government and a decision would be announced soon.
The Zambian scientists visited the United States of America, Denmark, South Africa and the Netherlands to collect information on the GMOs.
The scientists consulted government and private agencies in these countries.
Government rejected the GMOs on account of lack of information on the safety of the food before it could be given to its people.
The country would now decide whether to accept or to maintain its position on GMOs once the report before government had been studied.
2. THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
24 October 2002
Dear Friends and colleagues,
RE: WFP, FOOD AID AND GMOS
We wish to further highlight the issue of biosafety and food aid as seen in the on-going controversy over the distribution of food aid containing genetically modified (GM) maize to Africa.
As of today, the Zambians have been reluctant to accept US food aid in the form of GM maize for fear of the health effects of consuming GM maize, and the fear of contamination of local varieties, with the ensuing environmental and socio-economic impacts, including the loss of export markets in Europe where safety concerns have led to consumer rejection of GM crops and seeds.
The US insistence that its GM food is accepted without offering alternatives or cash to purchase non-GM food that is available within the region or elsewhere, raises questions as to its motivation. In the past, US food assistance has been widely criticised as a tool to push its foreign policy agenda abroad, and now is seen to once again be at work in the name of international assistance to Africa.
It is widely acknowledged that the US uses food aid as a means to export its subsidised agricultural surpluses which benefits its farmers and TNCs, at times at the expense of food sovereignty of the recipient country. As explained by Dr Wilma Salgado (former consultant to the World Food Programme in Ecuador) in her article below, US food assistance to Ecuador has nearly wiped out the country's local production of wheat and rendered it dependent on wheat imports from the US, thus threatening its food security while creating a market for US exports.
As the Open letter to James Morris, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) from the Network for a GE free Latin America suggests below, the GM contamination level in food aid to Colombia was so high as to suggest that GMOs are purposely being dumped on unsuspecting countries.
In this context, the role of the WFP also needs to be severely criticised. The bulk of the food distributed by the WFP originates from the US. Aside from the US insistence that Zambia accepts its GM food aid, the WFP has only added to that pressure.
Recently, it was revealed that the WFP has been distributing transgenic food for seven years without informing recipient countries and often in violation of the national laws of these countries. As the Open letter to the WFP points out, GM food aid has been offered to Latin America in the past and in the case of Ecuador, the WFP has ignored the country's constitution which prohibits the introduction and distribution of genetically modified organisms until the existence of biosafety laws, which it has yet to introduce.
The WFP Executive Board is currently meeting this week in Rome and will be discussing the issue of GM food aid.
With best wishes,
Lim Li Lin and Chee Yoke Heong
Third World Network
121-S Jalan Utama
GM Food Aid Row Continues
By Lim Li Ching, Third World Network and Institute of Science in Society, UK
At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), the most contentious issue that was not on the official agenda, but which reverberated through the corridors, was on genetically modified (GM) food aid, and with it, questions of national sovereignty and the role of the UN.
So much so that it became part of the Summit speech of US Secretary of State Colin Powell. He chastised governments in Southern Africa that have raised concerns about GM food aid, saying, "In the face of famine, several governments in Southern Africa have prevented critical U.S. food assistance from being distributed to the hungry by rejecting biotech corn, which has been eaten safely around the world since 1995". Powell was heckled and booed during his speech.
Zambia rejects GM food aid
Receiving less attention but more importantly, was a press conference the day before by Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa at the WSSD, explaining his country's position on the issue. Zambia has been at the centre of the GM food aid storm, standing firm in its refusal to accept GM food aid. Its rejection is based on concerns over the health effects of consuming GM maize, and the fear of contamination of local varieties, with the ensuing environmental and socio-economic impacts, including the loss of export markets in Europe where safety concerns have led to consumer rejection of GM crops and seeds. Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique have also expressed varying degrees of reservation over the past few months.
President Mwanawasa explained that a national consultative meeting held in Lusaka on 12 August 2002, in which a cross-section of Zambian society had participated, including NGOs, farmers, women's groups, church leaders, traditional leaders, members of Parliament, opposition politicians and government. The meeting had strongly recommended that Zambia should not accept GM food aid. Zambian media has been active in facilitating public discussion and debate.
Commenting on a UN statement issued on 27 August which obliquely urged Southern African countries to accept GM food aid, he expressed concern that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) admitted that they have not carried out formal safety assessments on GMOs. He pointed to the apparent contradiction with their statement that donors are certifying these foods as safe for human consumption. (Many critics of GMOs, including scientists, have pointed to the lack of comprehensive biosafety regulations and risk assessment systems in the US, where commercialisation of GMOs has been most widespread. Within the US, consumer groups, organic farmers, independent scientists and even some regulators in the government have raised concerns over the lack of food safety assessment in particular.)
The Zambian President said that the FAO, WHO and World Food Programme (WFP) advice was at best speculative, with terms like "not likely to present human health risks", "these foods may be eaten" and "the organisations confirm that to date they are not aware of scientifically documented cases in which the consumption of these foods has had negative human health effects".
He said, "We may be poor and experiencing food shortages, but are not ready to expose people to ill-defined risks". He pleaded that Zambians not be used as guinea pigs in the debate.
"We expect UN agencies and donors to respect our decision as a sovereign nation," President Mwanawasa said.
When the issue was put to the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan by Third World Network, his emphatic response was that the UN would not pressure any country and that any food aid provided would first receive the consent of the recipient country.
Yet, Zambia has come under intense pressure to reverse its decision, particularly from the US, and the WFP statement supported by the WHO and FAO adds to that pressure.
No prior informed consent
NGOs at the WSSD published a strongly worded open letter to the US government, the WFP, WHO and FAO, urging them not to pressure hungry peoples to accept GM food aid. (for details see
The WFP came under strong criticism for failing to obtain the prior informed consent of countries receiving food aid, as to whether they are willing to accept GM food aid. And in the weeks that followed, revelations surfaced that the WFP has been delivering GM food as emergency aid for the past seven years, without telling the countries concerned ['UN is slipping modified food into aid', by Fred Pearce, New Scientist, 19 Sept 2002]. Countries getting GM food aid in the past two years - often in breach of national regulations - include the Philippines, India, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Ecuador, as well as many African countries.
Earlier this year the Alliance for a Nicaragua Free of Genetically Modified Organisms accused the WFP and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) of using GM foods and seeds in their emergency relief programs in Nicaragua [for details of the Alliance's Press Release, 3 June 2002, see http://www.connectotel.com/gmfood/an030602.txt].
On 10 June 2002, the Bolivian Forum on Environment and Development (FOBOMADE), a citizens' group in Bolivia, announced that a sample of USAID food aid tested positive for the presence of StarLink maize, a GM variety not approved for human consumption due to health concerns over possible allergenic effects. According to the press release, other GM varieties not approved by the E.U. were also found.
In view of the worldwide uncertainty over the health and environmental impacts of GMOs, Zambia thus took a precautionary approach in rejecting GM food aid. The country has yet to formulate national biosafety regulations and lacks the capacity to conduct reliable risk assessments. Add to this the lack of information on the identities of the GM maize in the food aid consignments and the unknown related to the different contexts of diet, health status and the environment in Zambia (as opposed to the US situation), and a precautionary approach is indeed warranted.
There are alternatives
In Johannesburg, the Zambian President made a strong appeal to partners to assist in sourcing and providing non-GM food aid. Zambia itself is prepared to plug its food deficit with commercial imports of non-GM food. It has also received offers of non-GM food from various countries, as well as offers of cash to purchase non-GM food. On 7 October, a Reuters report cited the WFP as saying that 12,000 tonnes of GM-free maize had begun arriving in Zambia and the agency was seeking another 16,000 tonnes from within southern Africa.
In its latest report on 'USAID and GM food aid', Greenpeace argues that there are numerous sources of non-GM food aid available around the world, including the USA. It states that the latest Food Supply and Crop Prospects Report from the Global Information and Early Warning System on food and agriculture (GIEWS) of the FAO indicates that there is a total of 1.16 million metric tonnes of non-GM maize available in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa. More than double this amount is available on the world market. Meanwhile, the WFP have used cash donations from Japan and the Netherlands to purchase GM-free maize regionally. The EU has also announced that it will provide southern Africa with humanitarian aid to the tune of 30 million euro (29.57 million US dollars).
For the food crisis in Southern Africa, this shows that the alternative to rejecting GM food aid is not starvation. Non-GM food aid should be made available by the WFP and bilateral donors. While countries may require food assistance, this should not be a reason to deprive them of the right to choose non-GM food.
In an article of the UK Guardian newspaper, Greenpeace and Action Aid have accused the US of manipulating the southern African food crisis to benefit their GM food interests and of using the UN to distribute domestic food surpluses that could not otherwise find a market. Aid agencies, the EU and the UK government believe that the best practice in emergency aid is to provide cash support to the WFP, so that it can buy grain from the quickest and most cost-effective sources.
The only organisation that thinks otherwise is USAID, with US food aid to southern Africa tied to heavily subsidised GM food grown only in the US. The eruption of the food aid and GM issue at the WSSD led to a hasty invitation by USAID to the Zambian government to visit the US. Keen to have a genuine fact-finding mission, a delegation of Zambian scientists, together with the Economic Adviser to the President, has just completed visits to the US, South Africa and Europe (Norway, UK, the Netherlands). They investigated the safety of GMOs for human consumption and environmental sustainability, both from a point of view of addressing the immediate food crisis as well as longer-term policy considerations. The delegation is to report to the President, and an announcement on the Zambian position on GM food aid is expected very soon.
Meanwhile, the courageous stance of the Zambian government has not only reaffirmed their right to choose safe food aid, but also put to the forefront the urgency of developing countries to develop strong biosafety laws, policies and capacities.
OPEN LETTER TO JAMES MORRIS, DIRECTOR OF WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME
(translated from Spanish)
The Network for a GE Free Latin America have been following very closely the debate about food aid to Southern Africa. Thus we want to express our concern about the pressure these countries are being subjected to by accepting genetically engineered foods. We believe that this pressure is a violation of a country's right to self-determination.
Furthermore, we are deeply concerned about several of your declarations in the International Herald Tribune. You recognizes that the program has distributed transgenic food for 7 years. This is not news to Latin America. For a long time we have been running a campaign against food aid used as an instrument to open new markets to American agro-products. This strategy has caused severe damage to our own growers and we are especially concerned with being subjected to the dumping of products that the United States does not want. This is especially disturbing since it is well known that consumers throughout the world reject transgenic foods
In many cases, the introduction of transgenic foods has violated national laws. For example in Ecuador, the National constitution prohibits the introduction and distribution of the GMO's until the existence of bio-safety regulations. The World Food Program failed to recognize the constitutional law and the technical regulations of the program itself, where it explicitly forbids the use of transgenic foods.
After several civil organizations presented a complain against the use of transgenic foods in the food aid program, all the related ministries withdrew the products from circulation with the Ecuadorian parliament support. Not surprisingly, the only organization that insisted in continuing the use of transgenic food was the World Food Program.
You maintain that the food being distributed through the WFP is the same as the one consumed in New York and Toronto. However our findings showed otherwise. Results found in Colombia with testing samples taken from the soy used in the program named 'Bienesterina' proved to be 90% transgenic. This high percentage suggests that transgenic food is being keep apart in the US and that the majority of these are being sent abroad as ‘presents’ or aid to the 'poor countries of the world' like Colombia in this case.
It is important to keep in mind that transgenic food in the US is being used to feed animals and not humans. It is very important to understand that populations fed by WFP are particularly vulnerable due to malnutrition and lack of food. Any danger that these foods may present would increase when an immune-depressed population consumes them.
Another clear example was the case of the Star Link maize. In the tests carried to find genetically engineered organisms in the food aid given to Nicaragua and Bolivia, the presence of genetically engineered corn, which was forbidden in the US and Europe (or accepted for animal use only in the US) was found in the samples.
In August 2001, the Network for a GE Free Latin America called a meeting of more that 60 organizations from all over Latin America. During this meeting there was an international call to audit the WFP and revise all the politics related to international food aid within the program.
It is worth to point out the situation in Argentina. In this country, an economical model based on GE soy has produced severe impacts, including large scale monocultures, soil degradation, biodiversity loss and an agriculture model without farmers, which at end produced hunger and poverty. Biotechnology accelerate the process of land concentration and our exports were devaluated. Now the big producers are given GE soy in solidarity to the hungry and the victims of this mode based of transgenics.
We believe that there are many regional alternatives to solve the food crisis like the one Southern Africa is facing. Food Aid must be based in solidarity and not charity. You cannot say to be in solidarity with those that suffer hunger and dump products when its safety is being questioned around the world. These people should receive the best food. The food provided should be adapted to their cultural patterns, but most importantly, respecting the sovereignty and self-determination of those who will consume it should be a priority.
NETWORK FOR A GE FREE LATIN AMERICA
(Original Spanish version)
PROGRAMA MUNDIAL DE ALIMENTOS
La Red por una América Latina Libre de Transgénic9s, ha seguido con mucha atenciÃ³n el debate sobre ayuda alimentaria en el Sur de Africa. Nos preocupa la presiÃ³n que estÃ¡n recibiendo estos paÃses para que acepten alimentos genéticamente modificados, pues significa una violaciÃ³n al derecho que tienen los paÃses a la autodeterminaciÃ³n.
Nos preocupan ademÃ¡s varias de las declaraciones hecha por usted como Director del Programa Mundial de Alimentos. Usted econoce que este programa ha distribuido alimentos transgénicos por 7 aÃ±os. Esto no es una novedad en América Latina, pues aquÃ hemos mantenido una campaÃ±a en contra del uso de la 3ayuda alimentaria2 como un instrumento de apertura de mercados de productos agrÃcolas estadounidenses, en detrimento de nuestros propios agricultores, pero sobre todo, de que nos usen para depositar los productos que otros no desean, pues es bien conocido que los alimentos transgénicos son rechazados por consumidores alrededor del mundo.
La introducciÃ³n de alimentos transgénicos se ha hecho en algunos casos en violaciÃ³n de leyes nacionales. En el caso del Ecuador, por ejemplo, la ConstituciÃ³n prohibe la introducciÃ³n y distribuciÃ³n de OGM hasta que no contemos con una estricta norma de bioseguridad. La Programa Mundial de Alimentos ignorÃ³ esta norma constitucional y las propias regulaciones técnicas del programa que manejaba, donde se prohibÃa explÃcitamente el uso de transgénicos. Cuando organizaciones de la sociedad civil presentaron una demanda en contra del uso de transgénicos en los programas de ayuda alimentaria, todos los ministerios relacionados con el tema pudieron que se retiren estos productos de circulaciÃ³n. Igual pronunciamiento tuvo el Parlamento Ecuatoriano. La Ãºnica organizaciÃ³n que insistiÃ³ en continuar con el uso de transgénicos fue el Programa Mundial de Alimentos.
Usted mantiene que los alimentos que se distribuyen a través del Programa Mundial de Alimentos son los mismos que son consumidos en Nueva York y Toronto. Este no es el caso de los resultados encontrados en Colombia, en pruebas genéticas hechas en la soya usada para el programa 3Bienesterina2. AquÃ encontramos un 90% de transgénicos. Este porcentaje tan elevado nos hace pensar si no existe la posibilidad de que los alimentos transgénicos sean segregados en los Estados Unidos, y que la mayor parte de la producciÃ³n transgénica es enviada como 3regalo2 a los 3pobres del mundo2, en este caso, de Colombia.
Por otro lado, en paÃses como Estados Unidos y CanadÃ¡, la mayor parte de los transgénicos son usados para alimentaciÃ³n animal, no para consumo humano directo. Es importante seÃ±alar ademÃ¡s que la ayuda alimentaria con transgénicos, estÃ¡ dirigida a un sector de la poblaciÃ³n que, por su nivel de desnutriciÃ³n y falta de alimentos adecuados, es una poblaciÃ³n de alto riesgo. Cualquier peligro que podrÃan entraÃ±ar los alimentos transgénicos serÃ¡n mucho mayores cuando poblaciones humanas inmunodeprimidas los consuman.
En pruebas genéticas hechas en la ayuda alimentaria de Nicaragua y Bolivia, se encontrÃ³ la presencia de maÃces transgénicos prohibidos en la UniÃ³n Europea, o aceptados en Estados Unidos sÃ³lo para el consumo animal (como es el maÃz Star Link).
Es importante seÃ±alar la situaciÃ³n del Argentina. En ese paÃs, el modelo econÃ³mico basado en la soya transgénica ha producido severos impactos, incluyendo la expansiÃ³n de monocultivos a gran escala, degradaciÃ³n del suelo, pérdida de biodiversidad, y un modelo agrÃcola sin agricultores, lo qu eha generado hambre y pobreza ene le paÃs. La biotecnologÃa ha acelerado el proceso de concentraciÃ³n de la tierra y las exportaciones se han devaluado. Ahora, los grandes productores estÃ¡n dando soya en forma 3solidaria3 a los hambrientos, vÃctimas del modelo basado en transgénicos. En una reuniÃ³n mantenida por mÃ¡s de 60 organizaciones de América Latina y convocada por la Red por una América Latina Libre de Transgénicos, en agosto del 2001, se hizo un llamado a la comunidad internacional para que se inicie un proceso de auditorÃa al Programa Mundial de Alimentos, y para que se revisen todas las polÃticas relacionadas con la ayuda alimentaria internacional.
Creemos que existen muchas alternativas a nivel regional para enfrentar crisis alimenticias como la que enfrenta hoy el Sur de Africa. La ayuda alimentaria debe basarse en la solidaridad, no en la caridad. No se es solidario con quien padece hambre, y se le da productos cuya seguridad ha sido cuestionada alrededor del mundo. Ellos deben recibir los mejores alimentos, adaptados a sus patrones culturales, pero por sobre todo, no se puede socavar la soberanÃa alimentaria y autodeterminaciÃ³n de quienes la reciben.
RED POR UNA AMERICA LATINA LIBRE DE TRANSGENICOS
Food assistance or export assistance?
(translated from Spanish)
By Dr Wilma Salgado (former consultant to the World Food Programme in Ecuador)
In contrast to other forms of official development assistance, food assistance differs because from its conception, from its origins, it was perceived by its proponents as a opening mechanism and/or an allocation of agricultural production surpluses, especially by the United States, at the same time serving as a tool to pressure in favour of the objectives of US foreign policies.
In an evaluation carried out by North American Congress Research Services and presented as a report to Congress, in April 1994, it is acknowledged that "Food assistance has enabled the allocation of products which could not have been exported in the absence of concessional financing and subsequently has allowed total North American exports to increase."
From the mid 80's, as of the publication of the Food Security Act in 1985, the US links food assistance to free market reforms in the agricultural sector of recipient countries. Mentioned "Food For Progress" is geared at stimulating recipient countries to "Develop more open economic systems.". Thus also influencing internal economic policies and frustrating the implementation of agricultural policies that would help elevate the level of the majority of farmers that live in poverty.
Since the implementation of the Colombia Plan, the US has increased its level of "food assistance" to Ecuador.
The food products received as donations, or through concessionary credits, are sold on the local market of the recipient country, thus negatively impacting the capacity for local production.
This has been the history of wheat in Ecuador, a product for which Ecuador was self-sufficient a few decades ago, and of which 96% is now imported. A similar situation is now occurring with soya, a product that is coming in as "food assistance" for "social" programme managed by "humanitarian" agencies.
Food dependence and increasing rural marginalization, which are the results of "food assistance", are to be partly blamed (corresponderbles) on the governments of recipient countries of such assistance. They accept and apply the conditionalities without questioning the impact on food security and food dependence.
The case of Ecuador demonstrates that the North American interest for market expansion for their surplus production, in the case of wheat coincides with the interests of local groups associated with TNCs producing wheat flour, which claim subsidies for the import of wheat.
Hence, while in industrialized countries the export of wheat is subsidized (a product that was part of "food assistance" in Ecuador from 1971 to 1983), the government pf Ecuador also subsidizes the import of wheat, with the argument that the imported wheat is of a better quality and lower price, and therefore in the interest of consumers. It is thus that Ecuador lost its self-sufficiency in wheat production and that wheat growing farmers lost their source of income.
The products that come into the recipient country as "food assistance", are sold on the internal market. They increase local offer of the product. The financial resources obtained from the sales of these products are managed by intermediary agencies that have high intermediation costs. They offer international consultancies that create employment for citizens of the country where the assistance originates from. Only a small fraction of the monetized resources really reach the beneficiaries of the programmes. The interests of the bureaucracy, linked with the intermediary agencies that manage the "food assistance", adds up to the interests of the countries where the assistance originates from.
The interests of the small, medium and large producers of the objects of the "food assistance", and the presumed humanitarian principles that justify the assistance, remain marginal as compared to the combined interests of market expansion of countries that provide such "assistance", and the TNCs associated with local groups that acquire these products process them and market them locally, as well as the international agencies that manage the financial resources from the sales of the products of the "assistance" on the local market.
The injustice called "food assistance" constitutes yet another example of the so common double language used by the United States for its economic interests.
"Food assistance" in reality is a support to its own farmers to expand their market, just as the strongly promoted "free trade" in third countries has enabled them to expand their (US) market. At the same time the US has increased its non-tariff barriers to limit the import of products that could compete on the US market. The free move of capital has enabled North-American speculators to broaden their markets for speculative investments, resulting in financial piracy. The gains are with the speculators, mostly from industrialized countries and also with local financial intermediaries. The losses fall on the local population, especially on the poorest.
(Original Spanish version)
AYUDA ALIMENTARIA? O AYUDA A LAS EXPORTACIONES?
Dra. Wilma Salgado
A diferencia de las otras formas de Ayuda Oficial al Desarrollo, la Ayuda Alimentaria se caracteriza porque desde su concepciÃ³n, desde sus orÃgenes, fue vista por sus propulsores como un mecanismo de apertura y/o colocaciÃ³n de los excedentes de producciÃ³n agrÃcola, sobre todo de Estados Unidos, sirviéndole al mismo tiempo como herramienta de presiÃ³n a favor de los objetivos de polÃtica exterior norteamericanos.
En una evaluaciÃ³n realizada por el Servicio de Investigaciones del Congreso Norteamericano y presentada como un Reporte al Congreso, en Abril de 1994, se reconoce que "la ayuda alimentaria ha permitido colocar productos que no habrÃan sido exportados en ausencia de un financiamiento concesional que en consecuencia ha permitido aumentar el total de exportaciones norteamericanas" .
Desde mediados de 1980, a partir de la publicaciÃ³n del Acta de Seguridad Alimentaria de 1985 , Estados Unidos estÃ¡ vinculando la ayuda alimentaria con la aplicaciÃ³n de las reformas de libre mercado en la agricultura de los paÃses receptores de dicha ayuda... Los denominados "Alimentos para el Progreso" se han orientado a estimular a los paÃses receptores de dichos alimentos, a "desarrollar sistemas econÃ³micos mÃ¡s abiertos"... "promoviendo reformas de mercado en la agricultura", incidiendo en consecuencia también a través de este mecanismo, sobre la conducciÃ³n de la polÃtica econÃ³mica interna y anulando la posibilidad de aplicaciÃ³n de una polÃtica agrÃcola que permita sacar de la postraciÃ³n en la que se encuentran la mayor parte de los agricultores sumidos en la pobreza y la indigencia.
A partir de la implementaciÃ³n del Plan Colombia, Estados Unidos ha aumentado el volumen de la "ayuda alimentaria" canalizada al Ecuador.
Los productos alimenticios recibidos como donaciones, o mediante créditos concesionales, son vendidos en el mercado interno del paÃs receptor de la ayuda, impactando en forma negativa sobre la capacidad de producciÃ³n local, en la medida en que aumentan la oferta en el momento de su internaciÃ³n, provocando una contracciÃ³n automÃ¡tica del tamaÃ±o del mercado interno para los productores locales. Al aumentarse la oferta del producto donado, los precios locales tienden a contraerse, lo que desalienta a los productores locales a mantener dicho cultivo que es en consecuencia, reemplazado por los productos ingresados como donaciÃ³n primero y una vez que se elimina la producciÃ³n local, es reemplazado por las importaciones. Esa ha sido la historia del trigo en el Ecuador, producto en el que fuimos autosuficientes unas décadas atrÃ¡s, y que actualmente proviene en el 96% de las importaciones. Una situaciÃ³n similar estÃ¡ enfrentando actualmente la soya, producto que estÃ¡ ingresando en calidad de "ayuda alimentaria" para programas "sociales" manejados por Agencias "Humanitarias".
La dependencia alimentaria y el aumento de la marginalidad rural, que resultan de la "ayuda alimentaria", tienen como corresponsables a los gobiernos de los paÃses receptores de dicha ayuda, que la aceptan y aplican la condicionalidad de la misma sin cuestionarse sobre sus impactos sobre la seguridad alimentaria de la poblaciÃ³n local y sobre la dependecia alimentaria, temas que normalmente no forman parte de la agenda de dichos gobernantes.
El caso ecuatoriano muestra ademÃ¡s que los intereses norteamericanos de expandir mercados para sus excedentes de producciÃ³n, en el caso del trigo, confluyeron con los intereses de grupos locales asociados a las empresas trasnacionales de producciÃ³n de harina de trigo, que reclamaron subsidios para las importaciones de trigo. AsÃ, mientras en los paÃses industrializados se subsidiaban las exportaciones de trigo, producto que suele formar parte de la "ayuda alimentaria", en el Ecuador a partir de 1971 y hasta 1983, el gobierno subsidiÃ³ las importaciones de trigo, con el argumento de que el trigo importado era de mejor calidad y de menor precio, por lo cual, su importaciÃ³n favorecÃa el interés de los consumidores.... De esta manera, el Ecuador perdiÃ³ su autosuficiencia en la producciÃ³n de trigo y los agricultores que producÃan trigo perdieron su fuente de ingresos.
Los productos que ingresan al paÃs receptor de la "ayuda alimentaria", son vendidos en el mercado interno, aumentando la oferta de los productos recibidos en dicho mercado por la totalidad del monto de la ayuda, mientras que los recursos financieros obtenidos por la venta de los productos, son manejados por agencias intermediarias, cuyos elevados costos de intermediaciÃ³n, en los que se incluyen consultorÃas internacionales que generan empleo para ciudadanos del paÃs de origen de la ayuda, dan lugar a que apenas una fracciÃ³n de los recursos monetizados llegue realmente a los beneficiarios de los programas que se ejecutan con cargo a dichos recursos financieros. Los intereses de la burocracia dorada, ligada a las agencias intermediarias en el manejo de los recursos de la "ayuda alimentaria", se suman de esta manera, a los intereses del paÃs de origen de dicha ayuda.
Los intereses de los pequeÃ±os, medianos y aÃºn grandes productores de los productos objeto de la "ayuda alimentaria", y los supuestos principios humanitarios que la justifican, quedan al margen, frente a los intereses combinados de expansiÃ³n de mercados de los paÃses que conceden dicha "ayuda", de las empresas transnacionales asociadas a grupos locales que adquieren dichos productos y los procesan y comercializan localmente , y de las agencias internacionales que manejan los recursos financieros de la venta de los productos de la "ayuda" en el mercado interno.
. La mal denominada "Ayuda Alimentaria" constituye en consecuencia un ejemplo adicional del doble lenguaje tan comÃºn en el discurso con el que Estados Unidos suele disfrazar sus intereses econÃ³micos.
La "Ayuda Alimentaria" en realidad es una ayuda a sus agricultores para ampliar su mercado, asÃ como el "libre comercio" promovido con tanto ahÃnco en terceros paÃses, les ha permitido ampliar mercados a los productores norteamericanos, mientras Estados Unidos ha aumentado las barreras no arancelarias "neotropeccionismo" (acusaciÃ³n injustificada de dumping, medidas fitosanitarias, etc.), para limitar severamente el ingreso de productos que puedan competir en su mercado; y, la "libre circulaciÃ³n de capitales" les ha permitido a los especuladores norteamericanos, ampliar mercados para sus inversiones especulativas, facilitÃ¡ndose las fugas de capitales, en un verdadero auge de la piraterÃa financiera, en la que las utilidades las concentran los especuladores, en su mayorÃa procedentes de los paÃses industrializados, pero también los intermediarios financieros locales, mientras las pérdidas recaen sobre la poblaciÃ³n local, en particular sobre los segmentos mÃ¡s pobres.
1 Ex-consultora del Programa Mundial de Alimentos en el Ecuador.
2 Ver Leisl Leach and Charles E. Hanrahan. "PL 480 Food Aid: History and Legislation, Programs, and Policy Issues", CRS Report for Congress, April 6, 1994, p. 26
3 "Food Security Act of 1985"
4 Ver: Salgado, Wilma. Ibidem, p. 3.
5 El margen de utilidad de las empresas es tal, que una tonelada métrica de trigo cuesta alrededor de US$ 100 en el mercado internacional, mientras que una tonelada métrica de harina de trigo en el Ecuador, bordea los US$ 400.