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Should Zambia and other nations accept genetically modified food aid to prevent their populations from starving? What alternatives are there?

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Introduction

SIMUKAI TINHU 2002-2003 ESSAY ASSIGNMENT (19-05-2003) FOR FAMINE AND FOOD SECURITY (PIED 5240) ESSAY TITLE : Should Zambia and other nations accept genetically modified food aid to prevent their populations from starving? What alternatives are there? Dr David Hall-Matthews -Institute of Politics and International Studies-University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK. Introduction Zambia is currently facing a food crisis that threatens the lives of more than 2 million people. Despite pressure from formidable opponents such as the United States, the Zambian government has said 'no' to genetically modified foods. A number of countries in the region such as Zimbabwe, Malawi and Tanzania had taken the same stance but they later reversed the decisions. Speaking to the Zambian Delegate sent to the United States by President Mwanawasa on a mission to assess the benefits of genetically modified foods (GMFs), Charles Benbrook of the North-West Science and Environmental Policy Centre, urged Zambia and other developing countries to reject GM foods since they pose a number of problems that range from health to environmental. These fears have been expressed by a number of scientists, organisations and also European Union governments. Sharma argues that the notion that GM foods will increase world food stocks which in turn ends hunger is based on the wrong assumption that hunger in the world is the product of shortage of food (Sharma 2000:01).This argument is supported by Phillip, 'If the food that is currently available is to be evenly distributed among the 6.4 billion people on the planet, there would still be surplus left over to feed 800 million more' (Phillip in Almas 1999:15). ...read more.

Middle

The monopolisation of food production means that poor countries such as Zambia would become dependent on the decisions of a few companies in the North (Antoniou 2000:63). Food is an important commodity .By importing GM food poor nations of Africa will end up being dependent on the North for the supply of food products. 'This will mean a shift of political power from governments of Zambia and other developing countries to the Department of Agriculture in the US or US Aid'(Almas 1999:19). The gap between the poor nations and the rich will be widened as developing countries due to their dependency on GM foods will now have to use up to 80% of their little income to import food from developed nations. Rosset argues that GM foods do not end food insecurity in developing countries because there is no relationship between the prevalence of hunger in a given country and its population (Rosset 2000:55). 'For every densely populated and hungry nation like Bangladesh or Haiti, there is a sparsely populated and hungry nation like Brazil or Indonesia' (Altieri 2003:01).The world today produces more food per inhabitant than ever before. The real causes of hunger are poverty, inequality and lack of access. Too many people are too poor to purchase the food that is available. Even if the governments of poor countries are given the GM food their populations will continue to be hungry as along as they do not have the income to purchase the food. As Sharma bluntly expressed it, the problem therefore, 'is not distribution but clearly of access and distribution. ...read more.

Conclusion

As it has been illustrated above the primary difficulty of this new kind of food is the risks that it poses .These include risks to the individuals, risks to the agricultural industry or risks to the environment. Societal actors are therefore divided over how to proceed. Politicians in poor nations such as Zambia are entering areas where they must set regulatory guidelines that ban the GM food products in a nation that is starving. This is not acceptable to the Northern countries such as the United States. As has been seen above there are a number of alternatives to GM crops. Hunger and food insecurity in poor countries, as noted is not a product of food shortage but little political will. Most importantly effective distribution and an efficient food market in the Third World will go a long way in alleviating the problems of hunger. More research has to be done on the potential risks of GM foods and how they can be reduced if the multinational corporations are to succeed in persuading the poor nations to accept their products. Also for successful integration, the biotechnology industry will rely on a careful balance between the potential of economic benefits to the poor nations and also the rich nations. As long as GM foods are viewed as having the potential to divide the world into potential winners and losers it will be difficult to persuade the poor nations to integrate the technology. If the above issues are not addressed, 'the GM foods will take us down a dangerous path, creating the classic conditions for hunger, poverty and even famine' (Letourneau 2002:62). Also Kendall concluded that, 'the GM foods are irrelevant to ending hunger and in fact are likely to increase poverty' (Kendall 1997:78). ...read more.

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