Zimbabwe urged to lift ban on GM food

The Zimbabwean government is being urged to lift its ban on genetically modified (GM) food.

The country allows foods that have been genetically modified in other countries to be imported, but currently do not allow it on their own land.

Imported GM products have been flooding supermarkets since stringent import regulations were relaxed in 2009, when the country suspended the local currency.

The current rules mean that it is cheaper for people to buy the imported goods than those grown locally, which is damaging the Zimbabwean growers and distributers.

Wholesale food importing companies have subsequently sprung up throughout Zimbabwe’s capital, allowing working class families to enjoy foods such as poultry for the first time in a long time, by buying in bulk.

While the consumers are obviously fine with the GM foods coming in from overseas, the local government is still opposed to the practise locally.

Agriculture minister Joseph Made said the country will not allow farmers to produce GM foods because they contain toxic substances that are harmful to consumers' health and are less nutritious than organic foods.

His position has been criticised, however, as Zimbabwean farmers use pesticides and fertiliser during farming, so locally produced food, is not necessarily organic.

But influential lobbyists are putting the pressure on it to rethink the legislation, including the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), which last month announced it was asking the government to allow farmers to plant GMO crops to boost agricultural production after a succession of poor harvests.

"We will continue pushing for the embracing of GMO production, using GMO technology," the CZI said in a statement, adding that exporting such food would be a starting point.

Science and technology minister Heneri Dzinotyiwei has confirmer the Zimbabwean government is reviewing its policy on GM foods.

In Australia, genetic modification of food is allowed, but many are still opposed to the practise and want more transparency about foods that have been altered.

Over in California, about 70 per cent of residents voted last month in support of mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods, while a report out this week found GM corn caused tumours when tested on rats.

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