23 January 2003
US EMBASSY GM MAIZE ROW LATEST
In a letter to The Guardian (December 19 2002) concerning US food aid to Africa, Lee McClenny, the US embassy press attache in London, claimed the US had no non-GM contaminated maize available for food aid but that, in any case, what the U.S. had donated to southern Africa, had not been US maize but had been purchased from South Africa. This implied that the corn rejected by the Zambians was NOT GM corn at all!!! This letter drew a number of responses - see, for example, the second item below.
Earlier this week the US embassy's press attache wrote again to the Guardian admitting that "US-origin maize has in fact been shipped to southern Africa" but claiming the rest of his letter was accurate. The first item below is a response. McClenny's letter can be seen here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,3604,878980,00.html
*More facts on US maize
*The plot thickens
More facts on US maize
Thursday January 23, 2003
We applaud the efforts of Lee McClenny, the US embassy press attache (Letters, January 21), to clarify the facts on GM maize and admit his mistake in a previous letter about the origins of US food aid to Africa. Unfortunately, he continues to misrepresent the situation.
GM yellow corn in the US is primarily grown and used for animal feed. It is largely not sold in the produce aisle of supermarkets - although certainly measurable levels are widespread in processed foods that contain corn. Africans, for example in Zambia, generally eat white corn. Not only the US, but many other countries around the world produce non-GM white corn.
Despite Mr McClenny's assertions, the US government could have offered African countries non-GM white corn - either from the US or another country. The whole tragic situation could have been averted if the US had simply offered African countries money to buy their own corn or other nutritionally balanced and culturally appropriate food aid as requested by governments.
Instead, the US government dumped excess GM yellow corn that it couldn't sell on the world market into its food aid programme. There are numerous better ways to help feed the world's hungry, even in crisis situations.
Unfortunately, the US government appears incapable of removing its food aid policy from the grip of its promotion of genetic engineering.
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
The plot thickens
The Guardian, Friday December 20, 2002
In reply to the US embassy's letter (December 19), a 2001 American Corn Growers Association 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
Quotes of the week:
""The deal would be this: If the Americans would stop lying about us, we would stop telling the truth about them." - EU Development Commissioner Poul Nielson quoted in 'EU's Nielson blasts U.S. "lies" in GM food row' (Reuters) http://www.forbes.com/home_europe/newswire/2003/01/20/rtr852190.html
"Zambia is a sovereign country and makes its own decisions. Zambians do not need to be heroic to assert their sovereignty... GM-free supplies are available in surplus in southern Africa. Europe's policy is to provide food aid procured in the region, rather than as a means of disposing of domestic stocks." - Pascal Lamy, the EU's trade commissioner quoted in The Case for Caution: 'We believe that citizens should have the right to choose' NEWSWEEK INTERNATIONAL, http://www.msnbc.com/news/861362.asp
Lamy's message has been put more bluntly by Alex Wijeratna of the development charity ActionAid, "The UN confirms there is enough non-GM food in southern Africa and on world markets... The US should [untie its aid] and stop putting a GM gun to the head of hungry Zambians." http://ngin.tripod.com/forcefeed.htm