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In hungry region, S.African maize may feed Chinese chickens

Sub-Saharan Africa leads drop in new HIV infections: UNAIDS
Geneva (AFP) Sept 17, 2010 - Sub-Saharan Africa, the region worst affected by AIDS, is leading a decline in new HIV infections, UNAIDS said Friday, with new infections in the area declining by over a quarter in the last decade. "The data shows that countries with the largest epidemics in Africa -- Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe -- are leading the drop in new HIV infections," said the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS in a statement. Between 2001 and 2009, 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which is the worst affected region, have posted a drop of more than 25 percent in new HIV infections.

"For the first time change is happening at the heart of the epidemic. In places where HIV was stealing away dreams, we now have hope," said UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe. Better prevention measures and awareness are contributing to the decline. A 12-fold jump in the number of people on HIV treatment has also been recorded in the past six years, bringing the total number of patients receiving medication to 5.2 million. But while progress is made in the worst-hit areas, regions such as Eastern Europe and Central Asia are reporting growing epidemics, said UNAIDS. In addition, a resurgence of new infections is occurring among male homosexuals in several developed nations.
by Staff Writers
Johannesburg (AFP) Sept 19, 2010
South Africa produces too much maize. Its neighbours not enough. But rather than feeding its neighbours, South Africa's surplus maize may feed Chinese chickens, due to regional worries about genetically modified crops.

South African farmers grew 13 million tonnes of maize in the harvest that ended around May. That included a surplus of four million tonnes, an excess that has pushed down prizes and threatens to bankrupt 10,000 farmers.

"The industry was not prepared for what happened. The surplus was causing panic. Over-production is not a sustainable way of producing," said Mariam Mayet of the African Centre for Biosafety.

Most of South Africa's neighbours had bumper harvests as well, driving down demand.

But even countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, which suffer chronic food shortages, refuse to accept South African maize because of worries about importing genetically modified organisms.

South Africa began planting genetically modified crops in the 1990s, and now they account for 57 percent of all maize planted in the country. Often the harvests are mixed together at mills, so that importers consider all maize as genetically modified (GM).

"Even some countries who don't have proper biosafety laws have a ban on GM, like Zimbabwe," Mayet said.

South Africa's surplus "has to go to special markets. Countries for whom GM is not a problem," she added.

In April, Kenyan environmentalists blocked a shipment of 40,000 tonnes of South African maize at port in Mombasa.

Regional reticence has left South Africa searching farther afield for a buyer, with China a leading candidate.

The government earlier this month sent a delegation to China to discuss selling the surplus, most likely as feed to chicken farmers.

"The negotiations will become formal hopefully in October, when a Chinese delegation will come to South Africa," agriculture ministry adviser Ramse Madote said after returning from the trip.

Neither the proposed price nor the terms of the sale have been made public, but farmers fear that they'll get a low price because the Chinese know South Africa won't get better offers.

"The terms being negotiated with China are bound to reflect South Africa's lack of alternative options," said Philip White of the Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme, an anti-poverty group.

It's a painful paradox in a region where millions of people will require emergency food aid.

"Even in a relatively plentiful year like this one, significant numbers of people continue to face hunger and many end up needing emergency assistance," White said.

About 1.7 million people in Zimbabwe, 500,000 in Malawi, and 250,000 in Mozambique will need food aid this year, according to the UN World Food Programme.

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NGOs call for African biodiversity centre
Libreville (AFP) Sept 17, 2010
Non-governmental organisations have called for a biodiversity centre to be set up in Africa to study species and control their exploitation, on the sidelines of a pan-African ministerial meeting. "On behalf of civil society, we insisted on the establishment of a regional African centre on biodiversity" when experts met in Gabon from Monday to Wednesday, ahead of the ministerial conference, N ... read more

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