The World Food Programme (WFP) should stop forcing African countries to accept genetically modified (GM) food aid, various groups demanded 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 said.
More than 60 groups representing farmer, consumer, environmental and development organisations from 15 African countries sent an open letter of protest to the WFP on Tuesday.
They were objecting to the pressure being put on Sudan and Angola to lift their restrictions on GM food aid.
Sudan has asked that food aid be certified “GM free”. Angola has said it will accept GM food aid only if the whole GM grain is first milled.
Even though the Sudanese government adopted an interim waiver on its GM food restriction until July, USAid cut off food aid to the country.
“The US 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,” the statement said.
The WFP told Angola it will receive significantly less food aid if it continues to insist GM grain first be milled.
The protesting groups said the WFP should have guaranteed the right of these countries to reject or impose restrictions on GM food aid.
“The scenario presented by the WFP and USAid to these African countries, is either they accept GM food or face dire consequences. These actions are totally unacceptable,” said Bryan Ashe of Earthlife Africa.
Mariam Mayet of the Africa Centre for Biosafety said: “The WFP obviously has learnt very little from the Southern African food aid crisis, when several Southern African countries imposed restrictions on GM food aid.
“These countries too faced overwhelming pressure from USAid and the WFP.
“However, 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.”
A report, GM Food Aid: Africa Denied Choice Once Again, released on Tuesday, says 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.” — Sapa