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Offer African countries the non-biotech corn

by Robert Schubert
CropChoice editor

(Aug. 1, 2002 -- CropChoice commentary) -- Much of the corn probably is genetically engineered. No, we won't mill the kernels to prevent any of it from being planted and then contaminating, via cross-pollination and seed mixing, your conventional varieties. Would that eliminate you from the markets -- mainly Europe -- that normally buy your corn because it's not genetically engineered? Probably. But life's tough. We haven't any other corn.

That seems to be the official line at the U.S. Agency for International Development about the corn it has offered to Zambia, Zimbabwe and other African countries whose citizens face severe hunger after two years of drought and floods.

But is U.S. government and industry officialdom being honest?

Consider a 2001 American Corn Growers Association (http://www.acga.org) survey of elevators in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and seven other major corn producing states. More than 100 reported that they required segregation of genetically engineered varieties.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that only about 30 percent of the domestic crop was genetically modified. That means about 70 percent wasn't.

Our leaders could take that conventional corn and donate it to African people facing hunger. And just in case some genetically modified characteristics slipped in, our government should mill the corn. That would fairly well avoid any possibility of destroying the Africans' export markets the way ours were destroyed by trying to force biotech corn onto countries that don't want it.

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