Zambia: Jesuits ruffle some GM feathers

 Are the Jesuits fostering famine in Zambia? In their defence of domestic economic interests have they become insensitive to hunger? A group of American and European scientists are accusing some Jesuits of committing a crime against the poor. A document challenging the position of these Jesuits was delivered to James Nicholson, US Ambassador to the Holy See, and to Andrew Natsios, head of the US Agency for International Development. A copy was forwarded to Father General and called for his intervention. What are the reasons for this controversy? "Zambia should not be pushed into accepting genetically modified maize," said the Jesuits from the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC) and the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR). Accepting GM maize for relief purposes does not just risk consumer health, but also risks having a negative impact on Zambian agriculture. According to a study conducted by agro-scientist Bernadette Lubozhya, GM crops are likely to bring many long-term problems, including lower yields, increased herbicide use, less bio-diversity, erratic performance and poor economic returns to the small-scale farmers who produce 80 percent of Zambia's food. They would become closely dependent on multinational corporations, and food production in Zambia would ultimately fall under the monopoly of a few agro-business concerns. Subsistence agriculture will be displaced by the intensive commercial food production carried out by large mechanised farms, resulting in increased unemployment and a threat to the food security of the country. On the advice of many Zambians, including KATC, the Government turned down a US offer of GM maize distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP). The denunciation and the attack followed closely. The KATC and JCTR, keenly aware of the current food shortage, have supported the Government's efforts to obtain non-GM maize, both within Zambia and from neighbouring countries. Hunger in Zambia is an undeniable fact, but it is primarily the result of poverty, which, in turn, results in chronic food shortages. There is no dearth of alternatives: donor countries and international institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF could respond positively to the Government's precarious financial position and increase developmental support so critically needed. Source: "HEADLINES - News from the Jesuit Social Apostolate"

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