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U.N. food envoy questions safety of gene crops

(Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2002 -- CropChoice news) --

Reuters: A U.N. human rights envoy Tuesday questioned the safety of genetically modified food and said big corporations had more to gain from its use than poor countries fighting starvation.

Jean Ziegler, the U.N. special investigator on the right to food, said he put the views of nongovernmental organizations, which say humans are at risk if they consume GM food over a period of time, before that of the World Health Organization, which says it is safe.

"All the nutritionalists, the highly qualified biologists at these NGOs say there is a risk for the human body over the long term," he told journalists. "They say we have not reached a security level and I believe them."

Hunger-stricken countries in southern Africa are torn between accepting GM food aid, mainly from the United States, and concern about its safety and its impact on agriculture and biodiversity.

U.N. agencies, including the WHO, estimate 14.4 people from Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are threatened by famine. Zimbabwe reversed its initial rejection of GM food aid, but Zambia is still refusing to accept it.

"I'm against the theory of the multinational corporations who say if you are against hunger you must be for GMO. That's wrong," Ziegler said, "There is plenty of natural, normal good food in the world to nourish the double of humanity."

Ziegler said farmers accepting GM seeds would be forced to continue buying them "forever" from big biotechnology corporations.

"There is absolutely no justification to produce genetically modified food except the profit motive and the domination of the multinational corporations," said Ziegler, a Swiss former socialist member of parliament.

The envoy reports on the world food situation to the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Commission.