Zim imports 121 000mt of GM maize

maizeJeffrey Gogo Business Correspondent
ZIMBABWE imported nearly 121 000 metric tonnes of genetically modified (GM) maize from Saouth Africa between February and July this year, in contravention of the country’s own biosafety laws, The Herald Business can reveal. The grain — enough to feed Zimbabwe’s 13 million citizens foran entire month — was mainly for food and processing.

Genetically modified foods are widely considered unsafe for human consumption. They are suspected of causing or multiplying the risk of an array of illnesses including cancers. GMs are produced from seed that has been doctored in laboratories, supposedly making them resistant to disease.

Statistics obtained by this paper from South Africa’s Department of Agriculture show that the imports were by three non-governmental organisations, Louis Dreyfus, Toepfer International and GAPS.

In February, GAPS imported 50 000mt of maize; Toepfer International, a German commodity broking firm, 30 000mt and Louis Dreyfus, a trader of agricultural goods from Netherlands, imported 9 300mt.

Louis Dreyfus took in a further 7 000mt of the staple in March; 3 420mt in May and another 7 000mt in June.
For June and July, Toepfer imported a total 13 900mt. The NGOs were fully aware the maize was genetically modified.

Mariam Mayet, director at the African Centre for Biosafety in South Africa told Foodmatters Zimbabwe, an online grouping of agriculture experts, that: “We have been informing the Zimbabweans about all the exports…”

It is unlikely in the melee of emergency food aid necessitated by Zimbabwe’s chronic food shortages in recent years, the grain was clearly labelled “GMO”, for consumer purposes.

It also remains unclear how the imports passed through border control without detection. Government has publicly stated its policy against the use of genetically modified organisms (GMs) for food, seed, animal feed or processing.

Repeated efforts to obtain comment from Agriculture Minister Joseph Made were unfruitful. His deputy, Davis Mharapira refused to comment saying “talk to the minister. He is the one handling the issue on GMs.”

Dr Made has on numerous occasions in the past made clear Government’s anti-GMs stance.
Fears are that the maize imports may not have been assessed for risk, leading to contamination with organic grain. Millions of people could have consumed the contaminated grain unknowingly.

In Zimbabwe, risk assessment is an obligation under international agreements such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and national laws which include the National Biotechnology Authority Act of 2006.

The Cartagena Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by genetically modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.

Domestic biosafety laws are vague on the exemption (or not) of GM imports during food emergency situations.
Countries under the Common Market for East and Southern Africa, of which Zimbabwe is a member, disallow GMO use, at any time.

The National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe, which has been advocating GMO cotton, says on its website: “biosafety is the protection of human and animal health and the environment from the possible effects of products of biotechnology.

“Risk assessment is the evaluation of the likelihood of the occurrence of an undesirable event. It is science based, carried out on a case-by-case basis, comparative and iterative.”

However, it is common knowledge that there is no baseline data on the safety of GMs to the environment and human health in most African countries of the east and south, hence no foundation for the assessment of food and feed safety.

The sustained importation of GMs has raised questions on Government’s capacity to monitor and control effectively the sphere of unregulated genetically modified grain trade.

Zimbabwe’s persistent shortages of food in the past decade have seen numerous non-governmental organisations and the private sector coming to the rescue of hungry villagers.

This has opened the food industry to possible manipulation, increasing the risk of GM imports, as a last gap measure to avert hunger. At least 2,2 million people were estimated to be in need of food aid last year.

The African Union has recently adopted the revised African Model Law on Biosafety, which recognises the “potential adverse effects on the environment, biological diversity and human health posed by GMs [that] are causing a growing public concern.”

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  • zvazvinhu

    We are pratically eating gmo grains daily so wat is the noise all about. Tipeiwo serious!

    • obsever

      I don’t consider this noise at all, its infomation dessemination, we are being informed of what is happening without our knowledge. Its helpful to some of us who were unaware. Personally i would be grateful if you had published or at least written a list of all those grains you know are GMOs on the market since you seem well informed.

      • Chatambudza

        Considering SA is awash with GMO products and supplies 60% of Zimbabwean imports and an equally large percentage of all foodstuffs consumed in Zimbabwe, simply assume 60% of any list contains GMO traces. Satisfied?

  • Tati

    Stop making unnecessary noise. Millions of Zimbabweans live in Spouth Africa and they eat these GMO foods every day. I dont think its Zimbos that are particularly susceptible to diseases that may come from GMO foods.
    If Zimbabwe did not want GMO, it should not have destroyed its agriculture. Only food grwon in Zimbabwe and monitored by Zimbabwe can be guaranteed to be GMO free. As for now, leave us alone bevause I dont there is one single Zimbabwena who has not eaten GMO food.

    • Horikotyo

      Empty tins make the loudest noise!… your reasoning is defunct, uninformed,
      dangerous and demented, what you are suggesting is akin to saying “just because you see people jumping off a bridge it’s okay for you and others to do the same” this kind of thinking is insane, people like you follow every whim and fancy… and you make sweeping statements which cannot be backed up by empirical evidence, with people like you – it’s no wonder why Zimbabwe has gone to the dogs.

      Your mind is governed by capricious notions.

  • observer

    Ini zviri kutondinetsa kuti chirimbotadzisa gvt kungotora ma idle or underutilised farms yopa vari productive chii.

  • Agric graduate

    Minda kuvatema vanogona kurima

    • Vusumuzi Bvunzawabaya

      A good observation but don’t expect anyone to listen. The biggest land owners in Zimbabwe are politicians and their well connected officials in the security and civil services. These people wont give up land easily any time soon. Just like they showed the nation a Middle finger on Mega Salaries don’t expect anything different on farms.

  • Tati

    You and Horikotyo appear to be alliens from the outer space. We eat GMO foods every day especially maize meal because we are not producing enough grains. Horikotyo in particular talks about a research paper. Practically everything has long term effects. The question do we starve because we are afraid of long term effects of GMO maize. How many people have those diseases so far which are attributable to eating GMO maize. In the Herlad of this week I read that the government of Zimbabwe would like make te billion cigaretes and not 2 million tonnes of non GMO maize. Horokotyo did not say anything and yet tobacco is proved to cause early death. And yet again tobacco is not food at all. Mukawne baba imwi!

  • Detective

    No one is being forced to eat GMO foods, but if its the only choice between dying and having a meal of coz people will eat GMO. Now tell us why we cannot produce enough non GMO maize to feed our population. Stop that propaganda crap and let us know why the GMO is being imported into the country in the first place