Johannesburg, 4th May 2004
. More than 60 groups representing farmer, consumer, environmental and development organisations from 15 African countries have today, sent an open letter of protest to the World Food Programme (WFP). These groups are protesting against the pressure exerted by the WFP and USAID on Sudan and Angola over their respective decisions to impose restrictions on GM food aid. The groups are demanding that the WFP and USAID immediately desist from misleading the governments of Angola and Sudan with a scenario of NO CHOICE, and forcing them to accept GM food aid.
Sudan has requested that GM food aid be certified “GM free” and Angola will accept GM food aid only on condition that whole GM grain is first milled. Despite the Sudanese government having put in place an interim waiver on the GM food restriction until July 2004, USAID cut off food aid to Sudan. The US government has since continued to exert enormous pressure on Sudan, with the result that the Sudanese government has relented and extended the waiver for a further period of 6 months, allowing the distribution of GM food to continue until January 2005.
The WFP responded to the Angolan government by saying that the country would face a significant decrease in the provision of food aid if it continued to insist the GM grain is first milled.
The African groups are of the view that the WFP responded inappropriately to Sudan and Angola because it should have guaranteed the right of these countries to reject or impose restrictions on GM food aid.
“The scenario presented by the WFP and USAID to these African countries, is either they accept GM food or face dire consequences. These actions are totally unacceptable” said Bryan Ashe from Earthlife Africa.
The protest letter points out that the WFP knew as long ago as May 2003, that the Sudanese government intended to impose restrictions on GM food aid. Furthermore, they allege that the WFP must also have been aware of the August 2003 recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and Biosafety of the Southern African Development Community, (SADC), of which Angola is a member, that its member states mill all GM grain before accepting it as food aid. Thus they say, the WFP has had adequate advanced warning to react to the decisions taken by the governments of Angola and Sudan in an appropriate and timeous manner. The WFP instead chose to make the entire issue controversial once again.
“The WFP obviously has learnt very little from the Southern African food aid crisis, when several Southern African countries imposed restrictions on GM food aid. These countries too, faced overwhelming pressure from USAID and the WFP. However, Zambia, which imposed an outright ban on the acceptance of GM food aid, not only managed to cope with its crisis, but is now even able to export non-GM food to its neighbours” said Mariam Mayet from Africa Center for biosafety.
A new report titled “GM Food Aid: Africa denied choice once again” was also presented today, and shows very clearly that overall, non-GM alternatives exist at national, regional and international levels, and donors should make these available to Sudan and Angola. The WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations have both officially recognized that Sudan has an abundance of food available in the country. Non-GM alternatives need to be fully explored in Angola. Furthermore, regional and international non-GM alternative sources also exist.
To view the letter addressed by African NGOs to the WFP, and the new report “GM Food Aid: Africa denied choice once again” see: