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11/5/02 - ZAMBIA SAYS NO - 2002-11-07

The United States is a major contributor to humanitarian efforts in sub-Saharan Africa, where several nations are facing famine. Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Swaziland have accepted U.S. food provided by the United Nations World Food Program. Another country, Zambia, has refused shipments for its more than two-million citizens who are at risk of starvation.

Zambia is denying its people the help they need because the Zambian government bans the distribution of genetically modified food. Zambian President Levy Nwabaswasa said that he would rather have Zambians “starve than get something toxic.” Mr. Nwabaswasa seems to have been seriously misinformed. For there is nothing toxic about the corn and other food supplied by the World Food Program.

James Morris, the World Food Program’s director, said, the food “is safe and healthy, and there is absolutely no scientific evidence to the contrary. Two-hundred-and-eighty-million Americans, [and] seventy-five-million Canadians eat it every day.”

In rejecting the food aid, the government of Zambia “is rejecting the advice of international relief organizations, governments around the world, and the European Commission. Accepting the food would help Zambians avert catastrophe.

The U.S., said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, “remains concerned that significant numbers of impoverished Zambians face serious food shortages.” The U.S. stands ready to provide U.S food assistance to those in need, should the government of Zambia reverse its decision.

The U.S. is committed to working closely with the World Food Program in Zambia and elsewhere. More than one million metric tons of food assistance is needed for this region through March 2003, and over four-hundred-thirty-thousand metric tons have yet to be provided. "The task of making up this shortfall and getting the food to those who need it, particularly those in remote areas,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Boucher, “is an enormous undertaking.” It will require a concerted effort by many nations. But it will do no good for starving Zambians if their government continues to refuse to accept the perfectly safe food.