22 November 2002
AGENCIES PUSHING ZAMBIA TO ACCEPT GM FOODS TURNED DOWN INVITATION
Agencies Pushing Govt to Accept GM Foods Have Turned Down Invitation
The Post, Zambia, by Speedwell Mupuchi
Nov 17, 2002
Key international agencies pushing government to accept genetically modified food have turned down an invitation by Consumer International to a workshop on biotechnology to explain their positions. At a press briefing yesterday at Chrismar Hotel in Lusaka, Consumer International regional director Amadou Kanoute named the organisations as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Union.
Kanoute said he was disappointed by the organisations' response as there was no need of being secretive when such issues arise. "We extended an invitation to key players and these have decided not to attend our meeting. This is a question of accountability," Kanoute said. He explained that they had invited the organisations so that as major players in the current debate on genetically modified foods, they could explain their positions to ensure consumers were given freedom of choice.
Kanoute said there was no miracle seed to solve problems African farmers were facing. He said hunger on the continent has multiple fathers and that asking farmers to buy genetically modified seeds every year would not solve the problem.
"When there are droughts, there is no miracle seed to solve that, when there is mismanagement, there is no miracle seed to solve that," he said. Kanoute said his organisation was concerned with the impact of genetic engineering and its effects on the environment.
He said genetically modified foods should be clearly labelled to enable consumers choose whether to take them or not. "People should be given choice on the type of products they want. I am a Moslem and I am not supposed to eat pork.
But if I find tomatoes genetically modified using genes from a pig, ethically the company that produces the tomatoes needs to provide that information," he explained. Kanoute said food security was linked to a healthy environment and water. He said every nation should strive to pay attention to these.
And in an interview, Zambia Consumer Association executive secretary Muyunda Ililonga said the Zambian government had taken the right step as a sovereign country to reject genetically modified foods. "It had taken an international principle. If there is no conclusive evidence that the food is safe, it is better not to take it," he said. Ililonga noted there were groups of people exaggerating the hunger situation in the country.
He said whereas there were areas facing critical food shortages, Zambia was not in a position where people were starving to death as there were a lot of locally grown products that could be used to feed the population. Ililonga, however, suggested that a long term solution to the country's food security situation lies on the government reviving food processing. The workshop on biotechnology opens on Monday in Lusaka with 50 participants from 23 African countries.
It was earlier scheduled for South Africa but the venue had to change following the Zambian government's stand on GMO. Consumer International represents 260 consumer organisations in 120 countries of the world and has observer status on the United Nations.