More trade and aid chaos thanks to GM
2.Turkey Bans Imports of Biotech Products
NOTE: If anyone thought the days of the Reuters headline "Eat GM or starve, America tells Africa", *were over,* have a look at item 1. Leverage is clearly being sought to undermine national laws and regulations that don't suit the US and the GM/grain trade lobby in both Ethiopia and Turkey (item 2). Just as in Europe ...
1.Ethiopia Biodiversity Law Threatens Food Aid Shipments
Voice of America, 2 November 2009
Addis Ababa - Ethiopia is reviewing a newly-passed law that could restrict imports of food aid at a time when millions of its people are suffering from severe malnutrition. VOA's Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa reports on the unintended consequences of a regulation designed to protect Ethiopia's biodiversity.
Ethiopia's parliament passed the Proclamation on Bio Safety with little notice on the final day before its summer recess in July. There was no debate, and no dissenting votes.
The proclamation gives the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority power to block the import of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. The idea was to protect the country's diverse life forms against genetically engineered seeds and grains that some scientists believe may pose health hazards.
But EPA regulators soon realized the proclamation also covers the vast majority of the food aid Ethiopia receives.
With the country in the third year of a drought, authorities have just issued an appeal for more aid to feed 6.2 million severely malnourished people.
Member of Parliament Bulcha Demeksa says lawmakers approved the Bio Safety Proclamation without realizing its consequences.
"I do not think the parliament understood it. Because everybody knows that food from Australia and Canada, all of them are produced with genetic engineering, and to say we do not want food from these countries is not tenable, it is not intelligent," Demeksa said.
The United States is by far the largest food-aid donor to Ethiopia. At the moment, the U.S. Agency for International Development has 300,000 metric tons of commodities such as wheat, corn-soy blend and vegetable oil on the way to meet the country's urgent needs.
USAID Country Director Thomas Staal says he has received assurances from Agriculture Ministry officials that the law will not be an obstacle to getting aid to needy Ethiopians.
"We've gotten assurances from them that it's not going to stop our food aid, it's already en route, some of it, and we're working with them trying to provide them input into what we're bringing in, and they're looking at their rules, and there's going to be a number of directives that will sort of roll out this law and those directives are still under discussion," Staal said.
In a telephone interview, Ababu Anage, head of the Ecosystems Department of the Environmental Protection Authority defended the law as necessary to protect human and animal health. But he said enforcement of the new law is still a subject of negotiation.
"We are not saying we will not [permit] any GMOs to this country. We need the GMOs, but we should give emphasis on the bio safety aspect of it," Anage said.
USAID's Thomas Staal says he has emphasized to Ethiopian officials that all American food aid meets U.S. health standards.
"So we do not think it causes any problem with the environment here, and not to people's health or safety. We do not bring in food that we do not eat ourselves in America. And second, we would not bring in any food here that would be unhealthful to the Ethiopian people," said Staal.
Last year, the United States donated close to $700 million worth of food aid to Ethiopia, or 80 percent of the total the Horn of Africa country received.
But many see the aid as inefficient. A U. S. Government Accountability Office report suggested more than 40 percent of the cost of the aid goes for transportation and other overhead costs.
In a speech to parliament last month, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi criticized what he called the 'food aid industry'. He accused 'industry actors' of deliberately inflating the number of Ethiopians in need of aid, and suggested their motive is more about profit than about saving lives.
2.Turkey Bans Imports of Biotech Products
USAgNet, 30 October 2009
Turkey, the 27th largest export market for all U.S. goods, issued a new regulation placing additional requirements on all food and feed products containing genetically enhanced components. This new regulation essentially came without warning, according to U.S. Grains Council Regional Director in the Middle East and Subcontinent Joe O'Brien.
"This ban came at us pretty much out of the blue," he said. "This regulation impacts everything from a bag of potato chips to grains and co-products." The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) reported on its Web site that this signifies approval of the fourth draft of a National Biosafety Law and is similar in nature to the draft reviewed last year.
O'Brien said the potential impact is substantial to U.S. coarse grains and producers. For example, Turkey is the largest buyer of U.S. corn gluten feed (GCF) and the third-largest buyer of U.S. distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS).
Turkey imported 435,378 metric tons of CGF in 2008 and 202,422 tons in the first six months of 2009. Turkey imported 465,212 tons of U.S. DDGS in 2008 and 199,173 tons from January through August of this year. USTR reports the U.S. goods trade surplus with Turkey was $5.8 billion in 2008, an increase of $3.8 billion from 2007.
USTR also notes the total value of U.S. "transgenic" crop exports to Turkey exceeded $1 billion in 2007, which are endangered depending on how this new regulation is implemented. O'Brien said one issue currently "up in the air" is the fate of the vessels currently on the water loaded with U.S. goods.
Turkey's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has to give instructions to the ports regarding this regulation and that has not happened yet. According to Rebecca Fecitt, USGC director of biotechnology programs, the food and feed industry in Turkey can make a significant difference in this matter.
A federal judge can reportedly overturn this regulation. Thursday, Oct. 29, marks Turkey's Independence Day [note!], which will keep any immediate information on this new regulation at bay. O'Brien said Turkey has a history of making decisions unexpectedly.