June 28, 2005

Government position on genetically modified grain clarified

The Angolan government has formally confirmed the ban on importing genetically modified grain into the country. The decision puts the country in line with other countries in the Southern African Development Community. The Angolan Council of Ministers states that the only acceptable GM grain allowed in the country would be food aid, which had to be milled before distribution. This was to ensure that seeds were not planted which could lead to genetically modified strains growing unregulated.
There are two arguments put forward for the ban. Firstly, the government does not have the capacity to regulate the growing of genetically modified crops. Other countries such as Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Mozambique have taken the same steps. South Africa does allow genetically modified crops to be grown, but it considers that it has the capacity to regulate the crops. The second argument put forward is that if Angola is unable to guarantee that its crops are genetically modified free, it will be detrimental in the future to exports to some markets in Europe, where there is widespread scepticism amongst the public as to the safety of genetically modified crops.
The ban last year had the effect of reducing donations from the United States, where genetically modified crops are grown widely. The United States produces a huge grain surplus that benefits from subsidies from the government. Another alternative would be for donor nations to stop dumping their surplus grain on Angola, and instead buy surplus grain from countries such as neighbouring Zambia, which has produced a surplus of non-genetically modified maize but has limited markets for its farmers. (Angola Peace Monitor, London)

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