Ethiopia: Meles defends genetically modified crops

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
ADDIS ABABA, 6 July (IRIN) - Africa should not reject genetically modified (GM) crops as a means of tackling its massive hunger, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Monday.

Speaking after an international summit on hunger, Meles said traditional technology and biotechnology could be used in tandem. "Should we rule out GM crops or biotechnology as a weapon in our arsenal? No. Why should we rule out any technology? GM technology is like every [other] technology," Meles told journalists. "It could be used well, or it could be misused. The issue is how to use it well. I think it can be used well if is used safely and if it does not increase the already big power of huge multinationals at the expense of the small-scale farmer."

Prof Jeffrey Sachs, the special adviser to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed. "I think agro-biotechnology is an important tool that can add a lot to the food security and incomes of African farmers," Sachs said.

Both had spoken out at the summit, which aimed to establish sound policies towards halving the chronic hunger facing 200 million Africans each year by the target date of 2015. The target is one of the eight MDGs agreed by international leaders in 2000 towards reducing poverty, hunger and disease across the globe.

Meles said African leaders needed to do more in key areas like governance and conflict on the continent as the main factors. "Without peace and stability there cannot be a sustained attack on poverty and hunger," he told journalists at a press conference after the one-day summit. "And we in Africa are the main causes of the problems of instability in our continent, and lack of leadership in this regard has been an issue."

Meles added that the stalled peace process with Eritrea was hindering development. "The lack of progress on that count is a problem both for Ethiopia and Eritrea," he said of the two-year deadlock since an international decision aimed at ending their tensions along their 1,000-km common frontier.

He stressed that Ethiopia "unequivocally" ruled out a return to arms to resolve the deadlock. "Only a peaceful solution will do," he said, adding that the matter had been raised with Annan.

Meles also argued that poor implementation of policies had often been responsible for failures to reduce poverty, but said this was mainly due to a lack of human skills. He added that developed nations "use this an excuse to fail on their repeated promises" while African nations used those failures as an excuse for their own flaws. He stressed that if continents like Africa continued to suffer from hunger there could be no global stability or security in rich nations.

"There is no security for the West without security for the rest," he said. "Security for the rest is primarily a matter of food security and fighting hunger."


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