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USAID and GM Food Aid - October 2002

4. Alternative sources of food aid are available27
It is clear that alternative sources of non-GM food aid are available and that best practice is to source food locally using financial assistance, rather than relying on food handouts. The problem of GM maize in US food aid is partly due to the fact that the US government provides a considerable proportion of its food aid in the form of maize from US farms, which is then shipped to areas of need. By contrast, good practice in emergency aid is to provide support to the World Food Programme in the form of cash, so that it can buy grain from the quickest and most cost effective sources. This is DfID's stated policy. Often these sources will be from within the affected region, or even the affected country, and sourcing food aid locally can strengthen markets and agricultural development. Bringing large volumes of food into a region that does already have areas of surplus will have a negative effect. It can lead to a situation where there are food shortages in one part of a country, and locally produced food rotting in other parts - a potential danger that the World Food Programme is aware of. 28 It is for these reasons that Article XII of the 1999 Food Aid Convention, to which the USA is a signatory, recommends local purchasing. , The Convention further stipulates that food aid should be given in such a way as to avoid harm to "normal patterns of production". 31

The latest Food Supply and Crop Prospects Report32 indicates that there is a total of 1,160,000 metric tonnes of maize available in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa.

Table: Non- GM Maize Sources

Country Exportable maize (Mt)
Kenya 10,000
Tanzania 50,000
South Africa 1,020,000
Uganda 80,000
Total available in Africa 1,160,000

The Food Outlook Report33 estimated that China maize output will increase to 120.2 million tonnes from 114.3 million tonnes. In the same region, India is projected to have 33 million tonnes of coarse grain (maize, millet and sorghum) and this is a 7% increase from last year. The report also projects that Europe will produce 106.7 million tonnes of coarse grain (principally maize), a decline of 2 million tonnes from the previous year. These figures confirm the fact that there is enough non- GM food in the world for those who have serious reservations about GM food. For the food crisis in southern Africa, it shows that the alternative to rejecting GM food aid is not starvation. The countries in southern Africa are still able to exercise their right to choice especially on food that even Europe has displayed serious concerns.

Donald Mavunduse of ActionAid, one of the UK's leading development agencies working in southern Africa, states that, "The WFP has been hamstrung by aid conditions imposed by the US Government. But if you look at the bigger picture there is enough non-GM maize on the world market. We have not yet got to the point where we should be saying to starving countries 'take GM or nothing'." In addition, WFP spokesman Richard Lee stated that purchasing aid from alternative sources, such as Brazil, is not problematic: "I have not heard of any purchasing problems or foreseeable problems, there is not a shortage of the food aid that we are after." 34 Indeed, Jacques Diouf, Head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said recently that, "In terms of the short-term objective [halving world hunger by 2015], the position I have always taken is that we don't need genetically modified organisms." 35

  1. Data in this section compiled by ActionAid ( For more information contact 020 7561 7561
  2. Enabling Development. World Food Programme. WFP/EB.A/99/4-A, 1999
  3. Article XII, Food Aid Convention, 1999.
  4. See also: Pg. 35,The future of Food Aid: A Policy Review. Clay E, Pillai N & Benson C. Overseas Development Institute, June 1998
  5. Article IX, Food Aid Convention, 1999.
  6. Food supply situation and crop prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa (No.2). FAO Global Information and Early Warning System on food and agriculture, August 2002
  7. Food Outlook Report (No.3). FAO Global Information and Early Warning System on food and agriculture, July 2002
  8. Interview with Richard Lee, WFP Johannesburg. 3rd October 2002
    ( - 0027115171686)
  9. Food aid fears stun FAO head. Fallow, B. New Zealand Herald, 2nd October 2002
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