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Ecumenical bodies seek guidelines on use of modified food for hungry. (News Briefs).

Ecumenical church and relief organizations have called for guidelines on the use of genetically modified food in their emergency aid operations, says the Lutheran World Federation.

A team of experts from the LWF, the World Council of Churches and Action by Churches Together is being set up to address food safety, justice and theological issues arising from the use of modified food in countries facing famine and other emergencies.

"Often the question is not what type of food we can offer to the hungry but, rather, whether we have anything at all to offer them," said Rev. Enos Moyo, the LWF's aid representative in Zambia.

Last year, Zambia and other southern African countries facing famine rejected the import of genetically modified grain from the United States, in part because of fears it might pose a health risk. Some European countries have declared a moratorium on the import of modified foods, while others have strict labelling requirements on them.

Opinions about the safety of genetically modified food vary. Many research bodies, such as the Royal Society, Britain's science academy, argue there is not enough scientific evidence to show that modified foods are inherently unsafe. But other organizations, such as Greenpeace, say scientific understanding of their effect on humans and the environment is inadequate and warn that once they are released into an environment they cannot be recalled.

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a working partner of Presbyterian World Service and Development, does not have a blanket policy on the role of genetically modified foods in food aid. However, the organization is in the process of developing guidelines for the procurement of genetically modified food and is looking at guidelines for its use, according to senior policy adviser Stuart Clark.

In the meantime, Mr. Clark says, the use of genetically modified food by the CFGB is governed by the following:

(1) Everything shipped from Canada must meet Canadian food safety standards.

(2) Everything utilized in a developing country must meet that country's regulations.

(3) The guidance of local partners is paramount. If they ask for nonmodified whole grain (maize), the CFGB will do its utmost to respond to their wishes.

(4) If the issue is genetic drift only, arrangements are made to have maize milled at the port of delivery.

"The question of whether such food will be used can often be reduced to the question of how many people we want to help using a set amount of money," said Allan Jury of the United Nations World Food Program. 'We will continue to comply with the existing guidelines set out by the World Food Program and the World Health Organization."

ENI; CFGB
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Publication:Presbyterian Record
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jul 1, 2003
Words:440
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