Zimbabwe Continues to Block Gene-Altered Corn
RICK WEISS / Washington Post 3aug02
The Zimbabwean government, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations World Food Program plan to continue negotiating through the weekend over how to get a shipment of gene-modified food to the African nation's hungry populace, sources in Africa and the United States said yesterday.
About half of Zimbabwe's 13 million citizens are on the brink of famine because of a prolonged drought and bureaucratic mismanagement of food supplies. Earlier this week, a ship containing 17,500 metric tons of corn donated by USAID docked at Durban, South Africa, for distribution to Zimbabwe by the United Nations. But President Robert Mugabe has said he is reluctant to accept the corn unless it is milled. Otherwise, he has said, farmers may plant some genetically engineered kernels, contaminating the nation's fields and making Zimbabwean corn ineligible for export in future years to Europe, which restricts such varieties.
It is uncertain who would pay to mill the corn. Negotiations are focusing on how to ensure that cornmeal gets to areas most in need if the Zimbabwean government does the milling. Aid organizations have been distributing food through nongovernmental organizations there because of evidence that the government has been diverting food from areas of poor political support. Sources said aid agencies want to be assured that the corn, once milled, will not be diverted.
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