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International conference on hunger, food aid and GMOs: report

Maputo, Mozambique

July 2004

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Organisers:
UniРіo Nacional de Camponeses (UNAC), Mozambique
Environmental Rights Action, Nigeria
Consumers International Regional Office for Africa, Zimbabwe
The Oakland Institute, US
Accion Ecologica, Ecuador
Oxfam SolidaritР№, Belgium
Third World Network, Malaysia
Friends of the Earth International, The Netherlands


With the support of:
Novib
World Council of Churches Working Group on Genetic Engineering
Action Aid



Introduction

Over 110 participants from more than 20 countries around the world met in Maputo, Mozambique between the 14 and 17 of July to discuss the problematic around the topics of hunger, food aid and GMOs. The Conference was organized by 8 organizations representing consumers, environment, development, and farmers groups from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latinamerica, and Northamerica. It was hosted by UNAC -the Farmers Union of Mozambique-.

The idea of organizing the conference arised following the growing controversy over the shipment of GMOs via food aid to developing countries, which started to be increasingly controversial since 1999. In 2002 the controversy reached its hottest moments when several Southern African countries refused to accept Food aid with GMOs during a food crisis. In 2004 the controversy grew again, after the Angolan and Sudanese Governments decisions to introduce restrictions over Genetically Modified Food Aid. Moreover five countries in the Southern Africa region - Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe-, according to WFP, are facing food shortages again in 2004. Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique in 2002-03 had the policy not to accept GM food aid unless milled.i

But the GMO issue is only one of the many problems and difficulties surrounding the current model of food aid. The problems identified go much further than environmental and health concerns over GMOs, which are widely documented. The food aid system has many problems per se. It is widely recognized that food aid historically has been used inappropriately with industrialized countries using it to dispose of surpluses and create food dependencies. The way the WFP operates in some countries has also prompted calls for accountability and an audit of the way the humanitarian operations are done. For example, some have said that WFP is not building the capacity of the organizations in developing countries, but just building their own capacity in those countries. It is certain that the debate over GMOs in food aid has contributed to renew the debate over the problems of the food aid system per se.

In this context in 2002 several organizations thought necessary that the key stakeholder dealing with the topics of food aid, hunger, and GMOs needed to meet in order to gain better understanding of the problematic, build new alliances and strategies. A comprehensive international meeting with the participation of key stakeholders, such as development, farmers, food relief, consumers, environmental and church related groups never took place during 2000-2004. That is why eight organizations representing the abovementioned different groups, decided to form a Steering Committee in 2003, and organized a Conference on the topic of food aid, hunger and GMOs in July 2004 in Maputo, Mozambique.


Footnote:
  1. See Africa Center for Biosafety et al. 2004. GM Food Aid: Africa without choice once again?


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