13 December 2002
MALAWI SHOULD HAVE REJECTED GM MAIZE - EXPERTS
1.Malawi should have rejected GM maize - experts
By Thom Khanje - 12-12-2002
The Nation, Malawi
Malawi and other southern African countries facing hunger made a mistake in accepting the genetically modified maize aid from the United States government because the decision will affect all future generations of people, plants and animals, experts have said.
A network of international NGOs, including the Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn), which have brought together 10-African countries to a conference currently taking place in Lilongwe to discuss the problems of GM food aid, told participants that persistence by Zambia to reject US GM maize paid off because the country has now received a grant from the European Union to buy GM free maize from other sources.
"It took a lot of political will for Zambia to reach the decision of rejecting GM food. This shows that GM food aid can be resisted if there is enough political will from the respective governments. This should be an example to other African countries," reads a research paper compiled by the conference organisers.
Until now, the safety of GM food for human health has not been confirmed. Experts are particularly worried that although some people in the US have been eating GM food for the past five years, the case in Africa could be different because the maize will be eaten as staple food.
According to Dr. Mwananyanda Lewanika, a biochemist at the Institute for Science and Technology in Zambia, when the maize is used to make porridge and nsima, the heat applied may cause foreign proteins to be transferred to human beings thereby becoming a risk to their health.
Other experts say once GM crops are in the open, cross-pollination leads to contamination of other crops. This is said to have caused problems in Canada where weeds become resistant to pesticides.
Fears have been expressed that acceptance of GM food may also destroy international markets for African agriculture since most, if not all, European Union countries do not buy agriculture products from countries that have GM crops.
"It is a given fact that people receiving GM food in seed form will plant some of it. There is thus no way to avoid the spreading of genetic contamination. Unlike chemical contamination, genetic contamination can never be recalled," reads the research paper.
The conference, which started on Wednesday and ends on Friday, aims at developing an African recommendation on food security strategies and GM food aid.