Sudanese authorities have seized a shipment of genetically modified (GM) soybeans at Port Sudan harbour, stating that it is currently ‘illegal’ to import GM foodstuffs into the country. It has not been confirmed where the GM soybeans came from but according to a Sustainable Pulse source in the country they are from the US.
This move comes one week after the Sudanese Customer Protection Society (SCPS) called on the Sudanese government to hold discussions on the issues surrounding genetically modified foodstuffs. The SCPS supports a complete ban on GM foodstuffs in the country.
Environmental activists, religious organizations, public interest groups, professional associations, scientists and government officials have all raised concerns about genetically modified foods in Sudan. They have also criticized agribusiness for pursuing profit without concern for potential hazards, and the government for failing to exercise adequate regulatory oversight.
Sudanese journalist Muawad Mustafa Rashid stated Tuesday; “The question that poses itself is why should Sudan, with all its fertile lands, import genetically modified foodstuffs while it is possible to plant natural seeds and compete in the international market, considering that the prices of natural foodstuffs are very high compared to the genetically modified ones? There is no need for Sudan to use genetically modified food considering its vast arable lands.”
“Why don’t the concerned authorities issue a clear decision in banning the importation of genetically modified seeds or foodstuffs? There is a practical experience about the risk of the genetically modified cotton seeds which were given to the cattle in Gezira State as fodder; as it resulted to the deaths of hundreds of the cattle. Sudan should ban genetically modified crops.” Rashid concluded in Sudan Vision.
Sudan has long been a target for the biotech industry. In 2007 Sudan was involved in a scandal over GM food aid for the Darfur region. The Sudanese authorities blocked the import of 100,000 tonnes of GM sorghum ‘food aid’ from the US but were eventually forced to take it following international pressure.
In 2004, according to testimony made by USAID before the Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Africa in the U.S. House of Representatives, USAID stopped all further food aid shipments to Port Sudan because the Sudanese Government had asked that US commodities be certified free of GMOs.
When this issue first arose in May 2003, USAID informed the Sudanese Government that the United States did not (read: would not) provide such certifications but instead sent a team to Khartoum to lobby and reassure the Sudanese government on the issue.