This article from the South African press reports how the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) has strongly refuted claims that it forces African countries to accept genetically modified (GM) food aid. It contains some of the most outrageously misleading claims we have ever seen.
The article says:
"[Michael Huggins, Southern Africa regional spokesperson for the World Food Programme] denied claims that USAid has cut off food aid to Sudan..."
Huggins is then quoted as saying, "It's complete rubbish... USAid has never cut off food to Sudan and has always been the largest single donor to the country."
USAID has never cut off food to Sudan?
According to testimony made by USAID itself before the Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Africa in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 11, USAID stopped all further food aid shipments to Port Sudan as of March 7 2004 because the Government Of Sudan had asked that US commodities be certified free of GMOs. USAID in its own testimony went on to admit, "the potential humanitarian consequences of this pipeline break for the needy in Sudan cannot be over emphasized". http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2897
And what the US did to Sudan was hardly a one-off. When countries in southern Africa first asked for non-GM food aid in 2002, the Reuters headline ran "Eat GM or starve, America tells Africa" (July 26, 2002)
WFP's spokesperson also claims in the article below that, "No government has been misled over GM food".
However, in late 2002 New Scientist revealed not only that the "UN is slipping modified food into aid" but that it had been doing so for almost seven years "without telling the countries concerned. Its admission makes a mockery of African governments' recent efforts to reject GM food aid." http://www.connectotel.com/gmfood/ns190902.txt
Yet Huggins also claims, "When Zambia decided it did not want GM food aid, after accepting it for seven years, the WFP went back to food donors and appealed for non-GM food and that was forthcoming."
Note how Huggins doesn't explain that the WFP did not make it clear it was delivering GM contaminated food aid for those seven years!!
Note also that when in October 2002 the Government of Zambia announced that it had decided not to reverse its earlier rejection of GM food aid, it became clear that the WFP had made no move to remedy the situation over the GM grain since the Zambian Government first formally announced its rejection of GM food aid back in **June**. http://ngin.tripod.com/forcefeed.htm
The reason for the dangerous delay? According to a report in Afrol News: "Only now, further supplies of food aid had been ordered, 'expected to arrive in Zambia in December.' UN agencies had been expecting a change in government mind until the last moment. The decision not to order non-GM food aid until now has been observed as direct pressure against the Zambian government." ("Continued pressure against Zambia on GM food", 30th October 2002) http://ngin.tripod.com/forcefeed.htm
Yet Huggins says criticisms of WFP are "completely erroneous" and that "No government has been misled over GM food or been strong-armed to accept any particular kind of aid."
He also says, "groups wishing to partake in the discussion should first check their facts before trying to enter into a dialogue."
Unless he has made no attempt to check his own facts, the only reasonable conclusion is that the WFP's spokesperson is lying through his teeth.
Africa GM food aid claims are 'rubbish'
Gillian Jones | Johannesburg, South Africa
Mail & Guardian, 04 May 2004 16:26
The United Nations's World Food Programme (WFP) has strongly refuted claims that it forces African countries to accept genetically modified (GM) food aid, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.
"We have never forced any country to accept GM food aid. The WFP does not dictate to any government what kind of food aid it must accept or give," said Michael Huggins, Southern Africa regional spokesperson for the WFP.
He was responding to claims made by about 60 groups representing farmer, consumer, environmental and development organisations from 15 African countries who sent an open letter of protest to the WFP on Tuesday.
"The groups are demanding that the WFP and USAid immediately desist from misleading the governments of Angola and Sudan with a scenario of no choice, and forcing them to accept GM food aid," a statement from the group said.
They said they were objecting to the pressure being put on Sudan and Angola to lift their restrictions on GM food aid.
Huggins said: "This is completely erroneous. No government has been misled over GM food or been strong-armed to accept any particular kind of aid."
Sudan asked that food aid be certified "GM free" and Angola said it will accept GM food aid only if the whole GM grain is first milled.
The group said the WFP told Angola this would mean it would receive significantly less food aid.
Huggins denied this.
"We informed the government of Angola that if they insist all GM food must be milled it would delay the delivery process because Angola does not have the capacity to mill large quantities of grain.
"Milling would have to be done overseas and we would have to find someone to pay for it."
This does not mean Angola will not receive food aid, Huggins insisted.
He also denied claims that USAid has cut off food aid to Sudan. The group had earlier said although the Sudanese government adopted an interim waiver on its GM food restriction until July, USAid cut off food aid to the country.
"The United States government has since continued to exert enormous pressure on Sudan, with the result that the Sudanese government has relented and extended the waiver for a further period of six months, allowing the distribution of GM food to continue until January 2005," they said.
Huggins refuted this.
"It's complete rubbish. The US government has just donated 33 000 metric tonnes of food to the country.
"USAid has never cut off food to Sudan and has always been the largest single donor to the country.
"When Sudan said it would not accept GM food we did go out to donors to request non-GM food for them," he said.
Huggins said it is the policy of WFP to accept a country's decision to refuse GM food.
"In this case we would source non-GM food for them. Every government has a civil right to decide."
Bryan Ashe of Earthlife Africa, however, said: "The scenario presented by the WFP and USAid to these African countries is either they accept GM food or face dire consequences."
Mariam Mayet of the Africa Centre for Biosafety said: "Zambia, which imposed an outright ban on the acceptance of GM food aid, not only managed to cope with its crisis, but is now even able to export non-GM food to its neighbours."
Once again, Huggins denied this.
"When Zambia decided it did not want GM food aid, after accepting it for seven years, the WFP went back to food donors and appealed for non-GM food and that was forthcoming.
"It cost the WFP in excess of $1-million to remove the food from their country," he said.
He said Zambia still receives food aid.
"We now buy food in Zambia to support their local markets," Huggins said.
According to the group, a report, GM Food Aid: Africa Denied Choice Once Again, released on Tuesday, said there are non-GM alternatives at national, regional and international levels, and donors should make these available to Sudan and Angola.
The statement said the WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations have both officially recognised that Sudan has an abundance of food available in the country.
There are also alternatives to GM food in Angola.
"Non-GM alternatives need to be fully explored in Angola. Furthermore, regional and international non-GM alternative sources also exist," the group said.
Huggins said: "The whole GM debate is very emotive and groups wishing to partake in the discussion should first check their facts before trying to enter into a dialogue."