Greenpeace, GM food aid and Zambia

Last edited 4 November 2010 at 4:37pm

Maize from the World Food Programme in Zambia (c) Matt & Polly

Image (c) Matt & Polly

The programme What the Green Movement Got Wrong alleges that:

"Greenpeace opposed GM food aid to Zambia and prevented starving people from being fed."

This simply isn't true.

It was obvious to us that if no non-GM aid was being offered then they should absolutely accept GM food aid. But the Zambian government decided to refuse the GM food. We offered our opinion to the Zambian government and, as many governments do, they disregarded our advice.

At the time, the Bush administration was using food aid to Africa as a political and commercial tool. An internal US government briefing stated that the role of its food aid programme was to "integrate GM food into local food systems."

There was plenty of non-GM food available including surpluses in other parts of Africa, but the White House ignored appeals by the World Food Programme and the EU to donate cash to African countries to buy surplus food from the region which would have supported local farmers rather than US-based GM multinationals.

At the time Dr Chuck Benbrook, a leading US agronomist and former Executive Director of the Board on Agriculture for the US National Academy of Sciences said: "There is no shortage of non-GMO foods which could be offered to Zambia by public and private donors. To a large extent, this 'crisis' has been manufactured - might I say, 'engineered' - by those looking for a new source of traction in the evolving global debate over agricultural biotechnology. To use the needs of Zambians to score 'political points' on behalf of biotechnology strikes many as unethical and indeed shameless."

To say that African countries adopted policies on advice from Greenpeace and other environment groups is wrong. African governments decide these things for themselves.

For more information download our 2002 briefing USAID and GM Food Aid.

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