6 January 2003
SCIENTISTS - ZAMBIA SHOULD MAINTAIN STAND ON GMOS/GM RULING SPARKS FEARS
...while it was often said that GM maize was consumed by millions of Americans, it was noted that it is eaten in highly processed form and was not a staple food in the USA. "In Zambia maize is the staple food and is usually the only carbohydrate source," the team observed. (item 1)
1.Zambia: Govt Should Maintain Stand On GMO's - Scientists
2.Oz: GM ruling sparks fears
Other articles relevant to item 1:
India rejects food aid over GM content (Financial Times)
Traditional Foods in Abundance to Feed 3m Starving People
Force-feeding the hungry: a primer on the food aid crisis
1.Govt Should Maintain Stand On GMO's - Scientists
The Post (Lusaka), January 4, 2003
Government should maintain the current stand not to accept Genetically Modified foods by employing the precautionary principle, Zambian scientists who recently went on a fact finding mission on GMOs have recommended.
According to the report which has since been submitted to the government, even the safety aspects of GM foods were not conclusive. The report stated that the importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to Zambia could destroy both organic and non-GM maize export market.
The report stated that Zambia required to build capacity in biotechnology and bio-safety to implement the National Biotechnology and Bio-safety Policy as well as the Cartagena Protocol.
The team further recommends that the government should adopt the draft Biotechnology and Bio-safety Regulations as soon as possible. "The government should ratify the Cartagena Protocol because it will facilitate Zambia's appropriate interactions with other countries on issues of biotechnology and bio-safety in general and trans-boundary movement of GMOs in particular," the team advises.
"The government should follow up the possible support for capacity building from USAID, UK, the Republic of South Africa, Norwegian and the Netherlands governments." The team recommends that the government should establish the types of GM maize which are in the country and the ones already consumed by Zambians.
The team said this would be in order to establish whether GM maize with anti-biotic resistant marker genes had been imported into the country. The team said these genes had been found to be potentially harmful to humans. Based on the team's observation and analysis of information obtained from the tour, it was concluded that distribution of genetically modified (GM) maize grain carries a great risk of eroding the local maize varieties. It was further found that safety aspects of GM foods are not conclusive. On trade, it was found that there was potential risk of GM maize to affect the export of baby corn and honey in particular and organic foods in general to the European Union if planted.
The team observed that all countries visited had regulatory mechanisms and that there was generally good will to assist Zambia to build capacity for biotechnology and bio-safety. The team further discovered that there was universal agreement that GMOs should not be introduced without the explicit consent of the recipient countries.
The team observed that while it was often said that GM maize was consumed by millions of Americans, it was noted that it is eaten in highly processed form and was not a staple food in the USA.
"In Zambia maize is the staple food and is usually the only carbohydrate source," the team observed. The countries visited by the team are the United States of America, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands from September 10 to October 2, 2002.
2.GM ruling sparks fears
January 5 2003
By Melissa Marino
Conservationists and farmers say new rules for growing genetically modified canola in Australia are inadequate and will lead to contamination of organic produce.
The guidelines call for a five-metre buffer zone between GM and non-GM canola crops. But opponents say that is not enough to prevent contamination.
They are also concerned non-GM farmers will have to pay the costs of segregating crops, resulting in higher prices for non-GM foods.
The rules were released by the Gene Technology Grains Committee just before Christmas.
Chairman Bob Watters has accused dissenters of running a fear campaign. He said the guidelines would give farmers the choice to take up new technology and grow GM crops while protecting non-GM interests.
The Canola Industry Stewardship Protocols provide the basis for industry self-regulation of commercial GM canola crops.
Commonwealth Gene Technology Regulator Sue Meek had been waiting for the guidelines before deciding whether to approve two applications for the commercial release of GM canola.
Two multinational companies, Monsanto and Bayer, have applications before Dr Meek to supply herbicide-resistant GM canola seeds to Australian farmers. If approved, crops could be growing by April.
Scott Kinnear, a spokesman for Biological Farmers of Australia, which certifies organic crops, said the protocols were supposed to ensure GM and other crops could co-exist. But, he said, the five-metre buffer zone required by the guidelines was ludicrous.
Mr Kinnear said organic crops must have no detectable GM residue to be classified GM-free, but the guidelines were based on keeping contamination below 1 per cent. He said 16-kilometre buffer zones would be more realistic, as well as strict penalties for breaching the regulations.
Mr Watters said he was confident the five-metre buffer would limit contamination of non-GM crops to a commercially acceptable standard.
But Greenpeace GM campaigner John Hepburn said canola plants could be contaminated from a distance of 2.6 kilometres. This translated to the contamination of more than half a million seeds in one season.
"Our point is that contamination will increase exponentially over time," he said. "You might be able to keep contamination low in the first year and maybe in the second year, but come year three, four or five it will be everywhere."
Mr Hepburn said non-GM farmers would face rising costs to keep their canola GM-free.
"What has happened in other countries, and what we're fearing will happen here, is that it will be the normal growers that foot the bill for the introduction of GM crops," he said.
Mr Hepburn said serious environmental, health and economic implications were possible if GM crops were allowed to be grown commercially in Australia.
But David Vaux, a head scientist at Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, said GM crops were being vilified and trials should be allowed.
"There is a fear of technology and a fear of anything . . . that comes from people wearing white coats and I can't work out what the reason is behind it," he said.
"You can never prove that something is going to be bad in 100 years unless you do trials for 100 years. You've got to use common sense."