US rejects concerns about biotech food aid for Africa, wants EU help
The State Department said the concerns, which are stalling the delivery of much-needed maize in about half of the recipient countries, are unfounded and putting 13 million famine threatened people at greater risk of starvation.
"Despite the urgency of the need, misinformation about the safety of agricultural biotechnology is preventing some US food assistance from being distributed to those in need," deputy spokesman Philip Reeker said.
"The food, the same as that eaten by millions of Americans daily, is both safe and wholesome and can make the difference between life and death for millions of southern Africa's poorest people," he said in a statement.
Reeker said delivery of about 100,000 tonnes of genetically modified corn had been delayed due to false fears that it may cause health problems and harm countries' future maize exports.
Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe have all raised concerns about receiving the corn, according to the UN's World Food Program (WFP), which has warned that the stance is threatening their at-risk populations.
Those three countries have asked the WFP whether the maize would be milled to prevent it from sprouting in the soil, or transferred in sealed containers.
Swaziland, Lesotho and Malawi have accepted such shipments without any conditions, according to the WFP.
Reeker insisted there was no scientific evidence of safety problems with genetically modified corn and denied that Washington was trying to dictate the agricultural regulations of African nations.
"While the United States respects the right of governments to formulate their national policies regarding food and farming, now is not the time to turn away safe and desperately needed food," he said.
The United States is contributing half of the amount of food assistance that the WFP says is needed in southern Africa.
The European Union is expected to be the second largest donor and Reeker urged that EU members intervene with the recipient countries to allay the false concerns about the corn.
"We call upon the European Union to join us in assuring governments in the region that food made from biotech crops is safe and should be distributed immediately to those who so desperately need it," he said.
The United States and the European Union have quarreled themselves over the issue of biotech food with some EU officials questioning the safety of genetically modified beef.
Copyright (c) 2002 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 08/21/2002 12:11:32
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