Low cost, high risk

Published: Thursday 15 August 2002

A compromise has been made to stave off starvation. Although Zambia initially rejected genetically modified (gm) maize in food aid, it has now asked the World Food Programme (wfp) to buy the cheaper gm corn to feed its people. In June Zambian agriculture minister Mundia Sikatana had banned imports of gm maize, citing its health risks. But the government has now given the go-ahead to the country representative of wfp to buy gm maize for the purpose of feeding people who are hungry. According to wfp estimates, some 2.3 million Zambians will need about 174,000 tonnes of food up to March next year after a lethal mix of bad weather and political mismanagement led to a drastic fall in food output.

Meanwhile, Zambia National Farmers' Union chairperson Ajay Vashee said that the country's farmers would be prepared to use gm maize even though it could harm meat exports. "We have no option but to use gm maize," he said. If the genetically modified variety is used to feed livestock, Zambia's poultry and dairy exports to the uk would plummet. Also, since not all farmers will use gm maize for their livestock, gm products will have to be labelled.

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