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[NAIROBI] Looters have stolen more than 500 bags of genetically modified (GM) maize from warehouses in the Monze district of Zambia and sold it to hungry villagers.

The maize was brought into the country by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Vision International as part of efforts to address severe food shortages in the country. About 2.3 million Zambians face possible starvation as the result of drought.

The Zambian government, however, is rejecting all donations of GM maize on the grounds that such food could be harmful to human health.

The day after the theft, on 22 September, The Office of the Zambian Vice President ordered international aid agencies to remove GM maize from storage sheds across the country, to prevent further looting.

The deputy minister in the office, Steven Mukuka, called on Zambians in a statement not to consume GM maize because the country lacked scientific evidence of its health effects.

"The GM maize must be removed from the storage as soon as possible because Zambians are being tempted to loot it," he said.

Related articles:

GM row may halt food aid, 19 September 2002
African scientists urge GM acceptance, 4 September 2002
WHO urges Africa to accept GM food, 30 August 2002
Famine-stricken countries reject GM maize, 29 July 2002
Zimbabwe shuns US gift of transgenic maize, 5 June 2002

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