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(Friday, May 23, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release.

WASHINGTON / BENIN CITY (NIGERIA), MAY 23, 2003, - Food aid has now become controversial on four continents because of U.S. genetically modified (GM) food donations, according to a new report* released by Friends of the Earth International today.

The U.S. Congress has passed legislation tying AIDS assistance to the acceptance of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). At the same time, the United States has also filed a case at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the European Union moratorium on GMOs.

In a letter and a new report* released today, Friends of the Earth demanded that the United States stop using hunger as a political and marketing tool to benefit big agri-business.

"The United States should stop playing with hunger. Having attempted to use USAID's famine relief programme to dump unwanted GM maize in Southern Africa they are now resorting to even more unacceptable methods. African nations should have the right to decide what their people are fed. It is immoral for the United States to exploit famine and the AIDS crisis in this way," said Nnimmo Bassey, director of Environmental Rights Action / Friends of the Earth-Nigeria.

Controversy over genetically modified food aid arose in 2000 and grew increasingly in 2002, when several Southern African countries refused GM food aid during a food crisis. African countries were presented with a situation where either they accepted GM foods or many people would die. Several countries - like Mozambique and Zimbabwe -- rejected GM corn due to environmental concerns, but accepted milled GM corn.

Only Zambia decided to reject GM corn in both grain and milled forms, citing health concerns. Several initial reports coming from Zambia suggest that the country has so far been able to cope with the food crisis without GM food aid.

The recently announced WTO case filed by the United States against the EU underscores a renewed controversy. The United States is again blaming the EU moratorium on GMOs as being the cause of African rejection of GM food aid.(i) However, the EU recently strongly rejected such accusations. (ii)

There are also concerns that a U.S. AIDS spending legislation bill, which passed the U.S. Senate May 15 and earlier passed the House includes a GMO amendment which ties AIDS assistance to acceptance of GMOs. (iii)

Friends of the Earth International's report released today and entitled Playing with Hunger, presents a compilation of case studies related to the shipment of GMOs in food aid to four continents since 2000.

It concludes that the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) should have anticipated the controversy over GM food aid during the Southern Africa hunger crisis.). Both agencies have been aware since 2000 of the problems and controversies over food aid and GMOs, and should have guaranteed real alternatives to GM food aid to the countries in need.

Friends of the Earth International sent a letter today to USAID and the WFP urging them to take the necessary steps to guarantee that in the future GMOs are not forced, via food aid, on any country.

"There were alternatives to GMOs but African countries were left without a choice. This should not happen again. We call on the World Food Programme and other donors to ensure they will always make real alternatives available in the future," said Bassey.

The report also gives more evidence about cynical U.S. policy over GM food aid, and criticizes the food aid system. Ricardo Navarro, Salvadorean chairman of Friends of the Earth International said, "Food aid is being used, particularly by the U.S., as a marketing tool to capture new markets. Big agribusinesses are huge beneficiaries of the current food aid system. There is a need for stricter regulation of food aid to prevent it from being used as a way to open up new markets for GM products."

Today's report was released one month ahead of a crucial international summit on agriculture scheduled from June 23-25, in Sacramento, Calif.. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), USAID and the U.S. State Department are hosting the summit to which Ministers of Trade, Agriculture and Environment from 180 nations have been invited. It is expected that the U.S. government will use the forum to promote GM crops in developing countries. The USDA and USAID are in charge of managing some of the world's largest food aid programs.


* : The report is available for download at the Friends of the Earth International website : http://www.foei.org/publications/gmo

(i) Zoellick, R. May 14. Transcript: USTR says WTO biotech ban case aims to quell fears. "This dangerous effect of the EU's moratorium became painfully evident last fall when some famine-stricken African countries refused U.S. food aid because of fabricated fears stoked by irresponsible rhetoric about food safety."

(ii) European Commission. May 2003. European Commission regrets U.S. Decision to file WTO Case on GMOs as misguided and unnecessary. The EU has rejected U.S. arguments over the EU responsibility during the African food crisis. They said: "food aid to starving populations should be about meeting the urgent humanitarian needs of those who are in need. It should not be about trying to advance the case for GM food abroad, or planting GM crops for export, or indeed finding outlets for domestic surplus, which is a regrettable of the US food aid policy."

(iii) 1 H.R.1298 United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 passed the Senate on May 15and the House on May 21. President Bush has indicated his intention to sign it in to law. To view full text of the bill Go to Congressional record: http://thomas.loc.gov/r108/r108.html , Click on Daily Digest, May 15, and afterwards click on Senate passed H.R.1298, United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act. Then click on the last version, Section 104a.


  • In Nigeria (Africa):
    Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director Friends of the Earth Nigeria
    Tel: + 234-52-600165 or +234-80-23176577
    Email: eraction@infoweb.abs.net

  • In Brussels (Belgium):
    Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International
    +32-2-5420180 or +32-477-391496
    Email: juan.lopez@foeeurope.org

  • In El Salvador (Central America):
    Ricardo Navarro Chairman Friends of the Earth International.
    Tel: +503-2200046 or +503-2206480
    Email: foeichair@navegante.com.sv

  • In Washington, D.C. (US):
    Larry Bohlen, Friends of the Earth US
    Tel: + 1-202-783-7400 ext. 251