Fourteen million face starvation

Submitted by AWL on 1 October, 2002 - 12:14

Starve or accept GM blackmail

Fourteen million people are now facing starvation in southern Africa, according to new United Nations figures. The organisation had previously put the number at 12.8 million. In Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique, droughts and floods - combined with political crisis in Zimbabwe in particular - have led to disaster. The impact of the crisis is made worse by the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the region. The UN has so far received only a third of the aid it says is needed.

In Zambia opposition to genetically-modified food has led to the government rejecting donations of corn from the USA because it might be GM.

Force-feeding the world?

Zambia has been told by the USA to use $50 million to buy America's Genetically Modified maize through the World Food Programme - or face starvation. This extract from an article by Robert Vint, UK Coordinator of Genetic Food Alert, argues that Zambia is right to refuse the food aid.

In 1998 Monsanto [the world's leading producer of genetically modified crops] sent an appeal to all Africa's Heads of State, entitled 'Let The Harvest Begin', which called upon them to endorse GM crops. Monsanto were following the advice of the world's leading PR company to shift the debate to focus on supposed benefits for the poor.

Ministers in Western governments have been bombarded with propaganda calling upon them to ignore the 'selfish' objections of their own citizens - consumers, health advocates, environmentalists and food retailers - because this technology was the only hope for the world's poor.

In response the Food and Agriculture representative of every African nation (except South Africa) signed a joint statement called 'Let Nature's Harvest Continue' that utterly condemns Monsanto's policy.

It stated: "[We] strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly, nor economically beneficial to us… we think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millenia, and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves".

Since that memorable occasion four years ago none of these African nations have accepted GM food or crops.

In the last few months America's controlling stake in the World Food Programme has given it the power to exploit Africa's crisis by offering its 'GM or Death' ultimatum to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It is only because the US can prevent the WFP from purchasing available non-GM food from southern nations [such as India] that it able to tell these nations that they must buy GM maize, that they must buy it from the US and that it must be unmilled.

In a region devastated by HIV/AIDS, where much of the population have deficient immune systems, where bacterial diseases are widespread and where outdated antibiotics are in widespread use there are sound medical reasons to reject crops containing genes for antibiotic resistance. This is the very reason for which they have been rejected in Europe.

Monsanto and its Government cronies are desperate for real television footage of starving Africans gratefully eating GM food - so desperate that they would allow millions to starve if they fail.

American GM agricultural systems are irrelevant to poor and famine-stricken nations. US farms employ under 2 million farmers yet will require in 2002 a subsidy of over 20 thousand million dollars. This subsidy does not help American family farms, most of which face bankruptcy, but it does provide an essential indirect subsidy to the biotech corporations. Poorer nations cannot support agricultural systems that are so capital-intensive and that employ so few.

There is no global shortage of food, nor is there likely to be one in the near future. Europe and America destroy surplus crops each year - but so do some of the poorest nations. The problem is not production but distribution. During every famine the affected nation exports food. Millions of people - including many farm labourers - are now too poor to buy the crops grown in their own nations - or even on the land they work. They starve while much of the world's food crops are bought by the West to feed cattle, pigs and chickens - and while much of the farmland is used, as required by the IMF, to grow cotton, coffee, tobacco and flowers for export.

GM crops have no future. The people of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and Latin America refuse to eat them. Farmers in India, Brazil and the Philippines are burning and destroying them. The people of America are blissfully unaware of their existence - but, when asked, 93% want GM food labelled and most would try to avoid it. In response the share values of Monsanto are crashing. The US is on the verge of a GM trade war with the rest of the world. Now the principal marketing strategy of the biotech industry, refined over the years, has descended into blatant terrorism that threatens the food security of dozens of nations and the lives of millions.

A full copy of this article, references and resources can be obtained from us: solidarity@actionforsolidarity.org.uk

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