- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 31, 2002

JOHANNESBURG Greenpeace and the Zambian delegation to the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development yesterday rejected American claims that they were letting people starve through misplaced concern over U.S.-supplied genetically modified corn.
U.S. foreign aid chief Andrew Natsios on Thursday criticized environmental groups as "revolting and despicable" for urging starving nations such as Zambia to reject American corn because of genetic alteration.
U.S. officials said all American corn is mixed, with about 30 percent genetically modified, and that all U.S. citizens, including President Bush, have been eating the mixture for six years without ill effects.
Greenpeace, which along with Friends of the Earth was identified by U.S. officials as involved in campaigning against using genetically modified food in famine relief, denied it had exercised any influence over the Zambian authorities.
Its political officer, Remi Parmentier, told The Washington Times yesterday: "I would like to throw this American accusation on its head."
He said the U.S. refusal to sign the Kyoto agreement on climate change has subjected millions of Africans and other citizens of developing countries to life-threatening danger.
Greenpeace official Doreen Stabinsky said the group has not taken a public stand on genetically modified imports to feed hungry people because "it's a delicate issue."
"It is arrogant to tell the Zambians what food they must accept," she said.
A Zambian scientist at the conference, known as the Earth Summit, also criticized Mr. Natsios' remarks.
"What is sad is not that we are letting people starve we are not," he said. "What is sad is people taking advantage of the desperate situation and forcing people to eat what they don't want to eat," Mwananyanda Lewonika said.
U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization Director Jacques Diouf yesterday asked drought-hit southern African countries not to bar genetically modified food aid, saying the best available evidence determined it was safe.
"The United Nations therefore believes that in the current crisis, governments in southern Africa must consider carefully the severe and immediate consequences of limiting food aid available for millions of people so desperately in need," Mr. Diouf said: "Their plight must weigh heavily on government decision-making."
An estimated 13 million people face the threat of famine in southern Africa, and 300,000 people could die of starvation in the next six months, the United Nations says.
But three countries affected by the crisis Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe have raised health and environmental concerns over the longer-term effects of genetically modified corn donated as emergency food aid.
Zambia recently said it no longer would allow genetically modified food into the country.
Mr. Lewonika, the Zambian scientist, said his government was right in seeking alternative corn imports from China, South Africa and Tanzania because no one was dying yet from starvation in his country.
He said no supplies from these sources had arrived, while many tons of U.S. corn lay in warehouses.
Many activists at the conference have been urging Zambia and others to turn away American corn.

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