HARARE - The controversy over genetically modified crops is disrupting international efforts to provide food aid to starving people here, with the government resisting foods that contain transgenic maize.
Zimbabwe is rejecting genetically engineered foods despite many people facing hunger and starvation.
The latest development in the biotechnology-derived food aid saga has stymied international efforts to get food into Zimbabwe.
About 1,5 million people in Zimbabwe face famine, due to a combination of political manipulation and the El-Nino-induced drought, a UN team reported last month.
The government has not waived its requirement that imports must be certified as entirely non-GMO, not of genetically modified origin, and maize destined for the country has been reallocated elsewhere.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made said the government will not allow millers to import genetically modified grain into the country.
He said government will inspect all grain imported as emergency food aid to check that it’s not genetically modified.
“When it comes to GMO, you know the position of government is very clear, we do not accept GMO as we are protecting the environment from the grain point of view. So far, there are places one can obtain non-GMO grain in Zambia, South Africa as well as in the Ukraine,” Made said.
At a recent World Food Summit in Rome, US officials promoted biotechnology as a solution for world hunger.
The US Agency for International Development (Usaid) announced a Collaborative Agricultural Biotechnology Initiative at the summit that, it says, will help developing countries access and manage biotechnology to reduce poverty and hunger.
The US Agriculture Department maintains that there is no need to separate genetically modified crops from traditional crops at harvest because genetically modified crops are perfectly safe.
But even if US officials were to be convinced of the need to donate only foods with no genetically modified components to relieve hunger, it may not be possible to do so.
Made said there was nothing to discuss with the United States because the Zimbabwean people would not be used as guinea pigs.