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01 Jan 2002 00:00
Genetically modified food is safe for human consumption and should be used to fight famine threatening millions in southern Africa, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday.
WHO director general, Gro Harlem Brundtland said in a statement that her organisation was “not aware of scientifically documented cases in which the consumption of these foods has had negative
human health effects.”
“These foods may therefore be eaten,” she said.
An estimated 13-million people face famine in southern Africa, and 300 000 people could die of starvation in the next six months, according to WHO statistics.
But three countries affected by the crisis—Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe—have raised health and environmental concerns over the longer-term effects of genetically modified (GM) maize, that
may be included in emergency food aid.
Zambia recently said it would no longer allow GM food into the country.
“Governments of countries in southern Africa must consider carefully the severe and immediate consequences of limiting the food aid that is made available for the millions of people desperately in need,” Brundtland said.
She made the statement at the end of a three-day crisis meeting organised by WHO in the Zimbabwe capital to forge a response to the famine by the health sector and international aid agencies.
Other southern African countries hit by the food crisis, caused by a combination of drought, conflict and unsound government policies, are Angola, Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland. - Sapa-AFP
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