- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2003

Africa will come under increasing pressure to accept U.S. foreign aid in the form of genetically modified (GM) food following Europe’s decision this week to end its ban on GM food, officials and experts said.

President Bush is expected to press the case for GM food aid on his first trip to Africa next week.

U.S. officials had said a 5-year-old European Union ban on GM foods was starving already famished Africans, who were reluctant to accept U.S. aid out of fear that they wouldn’t be able to export food products to Europe.

The EU ruled this week that member states could decide for themselves whether to import GM food, so long as it is clearly labeled and can be traced.



“I think the decision will help” get food aid to African countries, said Max Finberg, special assistant to the U.S. ambassador to U.N. food agencies, Tony P. Hall. “Anything that moves it from a war of words to a focus on science, to treating people, can only help everybody involved.”

With up to 30 million Africans starving, decisions about GM food can have far-reaching implications.

“Africa is being used as the battleground for the uptake of GM,” said Alex Wijeratna, a senior political lobbyist at ActionAid, a London group that says U.S. aid policy is driven by the farm industry.

He added that European policy was better because it provides cash to African countries, which they can then use to buy food surpluses from neighboring countries. GM food, he said, creates dependencies on U.S. suppliers.

The Bush administration, which is suing the EU over its GM food policy in the World Trade Organization, said the new policy still erects too many barriers to free trade.

Patrick Carey, the senior vice president for programs at CARE USA, an aid organization, pointed out that the EU’s labeling requirement may be “inherently prejudicial about whether the food is safe.”

Officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development and several African countries said it was too early to speculate on the new policy’s impact.

John Mulutula, the press secretary for the chancery of Zambia, the only African country to reject all U.S. GM food aid, acknowledged that European pressure contributed to Zambia’s position.

“There was a concern that our exports into Europe would not have been accepted,” Mr. Mulutula said.

African countries who accepted U.S. GM food aid, mostly corn, worried that the corn, if planted instead of eaten, could pollinate nearby crops. If that happened, the contaminated crops would no longer be exportable to Europe.

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