Cablegate: Media Report Gmo Food; Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. A press conference held on July 24 by Roger Winter,
Assistant Administrator at the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID), received blanket
coverage by the local print and electronic media, including
foreign news agencies - Reuters, Associated Press (AP) and
Agence France Presse (AFP). The July 25 edition of the
government-controlled daily "The Herald" reported the event
under headline "U. S. urges Zim to accept genetically
modified food." The July 25 edition of the independent
daily "The Daily News" preferred Reuter copy under headline
"Zimbabwe faces famine if Mugabe delays decision on GMO
food aid." The independent weekly "The Sunday Mirror" ran
an article about the press conference under headline "Gvt.
Refuses USAID demands on GMOs." An interview with Andrew
Natsios, USAID Administrator, via satellite television made
the front page of the July 28 edition of the independent
weekly "The Standard," under headline "U. S. warns Zim on
food aid." Article excerpts follow.

2. Under headline "U. S. urges Zim to accept genetically
modified food" the "Herald" (07/25) reported:

"The U. S. on Tuesday urged Zimbabwe to accept
genetically modified food to avert famine caused
by drought, which has affected southern Africa.
Assistant administrator at USAID Mr. Roger Winter
told reporters in Harare that although the issue
of genetically modified food was controversial,
the food could avert famine. However, the
government has banned genetically modified food in
the country since studies were still being
conducted on the new technology. Last week, local
researchers said Zimbabwe should not be quick to
embrace the new technology as this would affect
the county's beef markets in Europe and
elsewhere. . . ."

Under headline "Zimbabwe faces famine if Mugabe
delays decision on GMO food aid" the "Daily News"
(07/25) reported:

"Zimbabwe could have a famine on its hands by
September if President Mugabe's government delays
a decision on whether to accept genetically
modified food aid, a senior African aid official
said on Tuesday. Roger Winter. . .said Zimbabwe
had `expressed concerns' over genetically modified
organism (GMO) foods, limiting the amount of food
the agency can bring in to help feed thousands of
needy people. `We do not have other products that
do not have GMO in the volumes and within the time
frames that are necessary to keep the food
pipeline full,' Winter told journalists in
Harare. . .'The volumes that the U. S. is offering
to supply cannot be made up for by any other
country or group. As of right now, most
traditional humanitarian donors for this kind of
emergency have yet to step up to the plate,'
Winter said. . . ."

Under headline "Gvt. Refuses USAID demands on
GMOs" the independent "Sunday Mirror" (07/28) ran
the following article by the paper's News Editor,
Innocent Chofamba-Sithole:

"The United States Agency for International
Development (USAID) has cited the government's
refusal to accept Genetically Modified (GMO) food
aid as a major stumbling block in its efforts to
avert a looming famine that threatens over six
million lives countrywide. But the government has
dismissed this perception as erroneous, and
reiterated its position on both GMO food and calls
by donor countries and organizations for the
implementation of market-based macro-economic
policies to enable private food merchants to help
address the food crisis. Addressing a press
conference last week, a visiting U. S. official
Roger Winter, said Zimbabwe's policy environment
presented complications that hampered timeous
(sic) and adequate responses to a food crisis that
is expected to blossom into full scale famine by
September. `We recognize that every state in this
region has the right to receive or not to receive
GMO food, but this is what the U. S. has to
offer. . .We do not have other products, and in
the volumes required to meet the demand triggered
by the food crisis,' Rogers said. . . ."

Under headline "U. S. warns Zim on food aid" the
independent weekly "The Standard" (07/28) carried
the following article by Zwakele Sayi:

"The U. S. has said it will not deal with the
ZANU PF government in the provision of food aid
to hundreds of thousands of famine-stricken
Zimbabweans, and has warned that it will withdraw
its assistance altogether should the Mugabe
regime meddle with aid from that country. The
warning comes in the wake of increasing reports
that Mugabe's ZANU PF party is using donor food
aid to gain political mileage and to settle
scores with supporters of the opposition MDC
(Movement for Democratic Change). In a live
dialogue program. . .Andrew Natsios, the
administrator of USAID, said political inference
in the distribution of food aid had prompted his
country to deal solely with church
organizations. . .Natsios said contingency
measures were being undertaken to ensure that the
aid coming into Zimbabwe reached all intended
beneficiaries, not just ZANU PF
apologists. . .' We are in the process of
negotiating with the Zimbabwean government to
cease using the aid to lure votes from the
starving and vulnerable,' he said. . . ."

3. Meanwhile today's (August 1) edition of the
independent weekly "The Financial Gazette" carries an
article on page one declaring that the government has made
a u-turn on GMO food aid. Excerpts:

"The government this week backtracked on its
decision to reject GMO food in the face of mass
hunger, agreeing to take in 20,000 tons of maize
donated by the U. S. after being told the food
would be diverted elsewhere,. . .Michael Foster,
the USAID program officer in Harare, yesterday
said Social Welfare Minister July Moyo had this
week undertook in writing to accept the food
without any certification that it was free of GMO.
`We had a meeting on Tuesday with officials from
the Labor and Social Welfare Ministry and we got a
letter from the permanent secretary of that
ministry signed by Moyo saying the government will
take the food,' Foster told the `Financial
Gazette. . . .' Foster said it was still unclear
whether Harare's acceptance of the USAID food
donations signaled a permanent shift of policy on
GMO foods. . . ."


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