Saturday, September 10, 2011


COMMENT - A typical case of the US government acting as pushers for Monsanto and other agribusiness corporations. Zambia DOES NOT NEED GM FOOD OR SEEDS. In fact there are serious issues related to their safety, such as the observed effect of mass sterilisation among hamsters exposed to them. If it isn't for hamsters, it isn't fit for people. (See: Genetically Modified Soy Linked To Sterility, Infant Mortality In Hamsters, by Jeffrey Smith, Huffington Post). It is clear that transnational (agri-) businesses are running US foreign policy. And they are endangering the health of the Zambian people, and mankind.

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¶1. (SBU) A one day seminar on biotechnology (BT) in October funded with EEB BT outreach funds brought together Ministry of Agriculture officials, commodity traders and farmers, scientists and private sector representatives to hear presentations on the current state of BT, and how genetically modified organism (GMO) acceptance could
help Zambia's agricultural sector. The event, organized by the
Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa
, a USG-supported agency of the Common Market for Eastern
and Southern Africa (COMESA), represented one of the first public
dialogues on the benefits of BT crops since Zambia banned all GMOs
in 2003
and effectively cut off debate on the issue in 2005. While opposition to BT in the Zambian government (GRZ) and the private sector remains an issue, senior GRZ officials have expressed an interest in removing the ban (reftel), and Embassy Lusaka is developing a medium-term strategy to move Zambia towards BT acceptance. End Summary.


¶2. (U) COMESA Assistant Secretary General Stephen Karangizi opened
the seminar by noting COMESA's support for the introduction of GMOs
in its 19 member countries, including Zambia. He explained that BT
acceptance would increase agricultural output and could open
marginal land to agricultural production by utilizing crop strains
that thrive in more adverse conditions, helping countries become
more food secure. He assured skeptics in the audience that COMESA
understood the concerns of those opposed to BT, and said COMESA
would support systems that carefully evaluated new technology used
in countries' quests to improve agricultural productivity.

¶3. (U) Dr. Faith Nguthi, Senior Program Officer at the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) explained that BT crops, which improve productivity and income, protect bio-diversity, and reduce the need for fertilizer and other external inputs, helped alleviate poverty for 12.3 million small farmers around the world in 2008. She explained that, given the evidence in favor of introducing BT, the challenges for countries contemplating such a step include establishing responsible and efficient regulatory systems appropriate for developing countries and effectively communicating the benefits of BT to society. Dr. Nguthi offered ISAA support in BT information sharing, advocacy and scientific training.

¶4. (U) David Wafula, Programme for Biosafety Systems Coordinator in Kenya for the International Food Policy Research Institute, discussed BT commodity trade and regional market access issues. He argued that as countries in the region continued to introduce BT crops, including maize and cotton, countries like Zambia that continue to adhere to a strict ban on GMOs will lose out on regional trade and be hampered in their regionalintegration efforts. Wafula stressed that GMOs on the international market have passed risk assessments conducted by multiple national authorities, including stringent environmental and human health risk assessments.

¶5. (U) Tamala Kambikambi, a lecturer in Agronomy at the University
of Zambia, discussed social, cultural and ethical aspects of GMOs.
She noted that countries needed to strike a balance between
excessive anxiety and too little caution when discussing the
introduction of BT crops, and said that lack of public awareness
over the potential benefits of GMOs created an unnecessary barrier
to BT acceptance. She added that countries like Zambia currently
lack the capacity to monitor and regulate GMOs, which further
hinders their introduction. Kambikambi concluded that Zambia should
work with other African countries to promote home-grown BT research
through public/private partnerships and develop sound and rational
BT policies to regulate its introduction and development.


¶6. (SBU) At EU urging (and under EU trade restriction threats), the GRZ adopted a non-GMO policy in the early 2000s. In 2002, at the height of a severe drought in Zambia, the GRZ rejected a humanitarian donation of GMO corn from the United States, citing lack of information on the technology. In the aftermath, then-President Levy Mwanawasa declared a total ban on GMOs in Zambia. The ban is still in force, but it is not backed up by legislation. In 2007, a private, humanitarian donation of rice was rejected at the border. As recently as February 2009, the GRZ rejected a consignment of maize from South Africa to cover a shortfall in Zambia's food reserves when 75 percent of the 100,000 metric tons was found to be a genetically modified varietal. Despite its economic hardships, Zambia continues to pay premiums for non-GMO food imports.

¶7. (U) During the seminar, Rodger Saidi Phiri, president of the National Association of Peasant and Small Scale Farmers, declared his continued opposition to GMOs. Phiri and his association members were vocal supporters of a ban during the 2002 anti-GMO debate. Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives officials told Emboff that Phiri continues to command authority in the Ministry.


¶8. (SBU) While there remains opposition to BT introduction in Zambia within the GRZ and the private sector, GRZ officials at the highest levels have expressed aninterest in removing the ban. Rather than taking what they believe is the politically risky step of publicly supporting the introduction of GMOs outright, the GRZ has asked the Embassy to jumpstart the dialogue on BT acceptance (reftel). Some contend that Zambian consumers have long been exposed to GMOs through imported cooking oils and other imported processed or refined products. Embassy is developing a medium-term strategy to move Zambia towards BT acceptance. The seminar was a good first step, as it was one of the first public forums where BT was discussed in Zambia in years. COMESA expects to have a USAID-funded BT adviser in place in early 2010, and Embassy will continue to work
closely with COMESA on the issue.


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