The Battle Over GM Aid

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As millions starve in Southern Africa, the debate over whether or not to accept GM aid continues, delaying the delivery of much needed grain. Those in support of GM aid, like the United States, cite the fact that GM food is considered safe to eat by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Still, some countries around the world still have reservations about GM food. Some Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) have suggested that the U.N. declared GM food safe because of pressure from U.S. biotech companies who want to increase the market for their products. Other organizations suggest that GM food is being donated because consumers in the United States have rejected it and are trying to get rid of surplus. This, of course is not true; genetically modified food has been a part of the U.S. diet since 1995.

Zambia’s concern over GM aid is based on economics. They fear that GM grain imported for starvation relief could find its way into their crops and taint their GM free exports to the European Union. Zimbabwe and Mozambique have solved this problem by milling their GM aid imports, thus ensuring that no crop contamination will occur. Although this process is expensive, it is a cost they are willing to incur to protect their economy.

The two camps for and against GM aid base their arguments on very different information. While the pro-GM aid camp cites years of research done by various organizations, government groups and biotech companies, the anti-GM aid camp relies on scare tactics and unsubstantiated accusations as a means of warning countries about GM food. The United States and the U.N. endorse GM food because after years of being on the market they see no threat to human health. Research has shown that GM food is as safe if not safer than non-GM food because it has been so rigorously tested. The anti-GM aid side claims that in the future GM food may be shown to cause health and environmental problems unforeseen by today’s scientists. It is this possibility of risk that they use to block the use of GM food.