Zim imports GMO maize

HARARE - Zimbabwe is importing Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) maize from South Africa after its newly- resettled farmers failed to provide enough food to feed its 12 million citizens.

Presenting a State of the Economy Report yesterday, Finance minister Tendai Biti said government has allowed imports of GMOs from the neighbouring country despite earlier declarations by President Robert Mugabe that Zimbabweans will not consume GMOs.

Mugabe and Agricultural minister Joseph Made are both on record vowing that Zimbabweans will not be subjected to any genetically modified foodstuffs as this has a long-term consequence on health.

But Biti said there was not enough maize for the nation and government has been forced to import GMOs.

Biti said this is not the first time that government is allowing GMO foodstuff in the country as it once imported prior to the formation of the inclusive government in 2009.

“The country urgently needs 150 metric tonnes to August 2013 and private millers themselves have the financial capacity to import 150 metric tonnes,” Biti said.

“I need to tell Zimbabwe that part of the grain that they are importing is actually GMO grain.”

The minister said these GMOs will be milled under tight security conditions under heavy police guard to ensure that the imported maize is not planted for agricultural purposes.

“When the grain is imported, it is milled under very secured environment, the police will have to be there to ensure that nobody takes the grain and goes and plant it in a little field in Dotito or Chendambuya. They are already doing so and they are already importing,” Biti said.

GMOs have serious health implications that include, obesity, and cause massive changes in the natural functioning of DNA, according to health experts.

To highlight the precarious food situation, Biti said the fragile coalition resolved at its recent Cabinet meeting to take its begging bowl to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to plug the food deficit.

Biti said his ministry is also going to release $5 million towards the purchase of 150 000 tonnes of maize from Zambia under a government-to-government deal which he described as “non-accommodative” as it is expensive compared to importing from South Africa.

“We have agreed as government that we make what is referred in NGO (non-governmental organisations) lingo as a consolidated appeal to the donors through the WFP, but this is just for the shortfall between now and harvest deliveries,” Biti said. - Xolisani Ncube

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