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USAID and GM Food Aid - October 2002

1. Introduction
 
In August 2002, Andrew Natsios of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) accused environmental groups of endangering the lives of millions of people in southern Africa by encouraging local governments to reject genetically modified (GM) food aid. Mr. Natsios said, "They can play these games with Europeans, who have full stomachs, but it is revolting and despicable to see them do so when the lives of Africans are at stake." He added, "The Bush administration is not going to sit there and let these groups kill millions of poor people in southern Africa through their ideological campaign." 1

In fact, the cynical manipulators of the famine in Africa are the US government, USAID and the GM industry. They are using the current situation to force the introduction of GM crops on countries desperate for food aid. There are numerous sources of non-GM aid available around the world, including the USA. Using these sources is the best way to both feed people and maintain their dignity, yet the US has made a clear policy decision to only supply GM contaminated aid from US suppliers. Aid agencies, the EU and UK Government all believe that best practice in emergency aid is to provide support to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in the form of cash, so that it can buy grain from the quickest and most cost effective sources. The only organisation that thinks otherwise is USAID. US policy thus impedes aid from generating maximum benefit.

It is clear that the current program of aid donation is the latest twist in a crude 10-year marketing campaign, led by USAID and designed to facilitate the introduction of US-developed GM crops into Africa. At the same time this aid system effectively works as a huge covert subsidy for US farmers by selling US wheat reserves on behalf of aid recipients and then making these countries buy the most appropriate commodities from US companies. Thus the US wheat, maize and soyabean farmers have a guaranteed market.

The simple fact is that USAID has chosen to supply GM maize as food aid, even though there are numerous grain companies in the USA from whom they could supply certified non-GM grain. According to the American Corn Growers Association, a survey in 2001 showed that over 50% of US elevators (first stage grain handling facilities) said they segregated GM and non-GM grains. 2 A survey in 2000 by seed giant Pioneer Hi-bred found that nearly 20% of maize elevators were effectively dedicated to using only non-GM varieties. 3 In 1999 Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) the largest US exporter of soya and maize, handling up to 30% of US exports, required its suppliers to segregate all GM from non-GM crops. 4 Since the GM StarLink maize contamination incident during 2000/2001, in which a GM maize variety that was approved only as animal feed due to its potential allergenicity ended up in the food supply, the segregation of GM and non-GM maize has become common practise for many US exporters.

During negotiations on the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, part of a UN sponsored international agreement to control the movement of GM crops around the world, African countries made it clear that they did not want to become a test site or dumping ground for unwanted GM food. Yet this now seems to be the case. Indeed, in comments largely ignored at the time, the UK Chief Scientist Professor David King said that the Bush Administration's efforts to force GM foods into Africa in the form of food aid is "a massive human experiment."5 Professor King questioned the morality of the Administration's desire to introduce GM into African countries, where people are facing starvation in the coming months.


Footnotes:
  1. Greens accused of helping Africans starve. Martin P & Itano N. Washington Times, 30th August 2002
    http://washingtontimes.com/world/20020830-2441442.htm
  2. Corn growers' third annual survey shows more elevators requiring GMO segregation. American Corn Growers Association, 18th December 2001
    http//acga.org/news/2001/121801.htm
  3. Elevator biotech grain acceptance survey - 2000. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, 2000
    http://www.pioneer.com/biotech/asta/accept%5Fsurvey.htm
  4. ADM warns suppliers to begin crop segregation. Reuters, 1999
    http://www.netlink.de/gen/Zeitung/1999/990904.htm
  5. Blair urges crackdown on third world profiteering. The Observer, 1st September 2002
    http://www.observer.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,784262,00.html
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