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U.S. Taxpayers Spend Equal Amounts On Non-Emergency Food Aid And Shipping, Study Says

IRIN examines the findings of a study (.pdf) about the costs and effects of the U.S. Agricultural Cargo Preference (ACP) policy, noting that “U.S. taxpayers spend about $140 million every year on non-emergency food aid in Africa, and roughly the same amount to ship food aid to global destinations on U.S. vessels; money that could have been used to feed more people.”

The study by researchers at Cornell University provides numbers to “back a long-standing call for reforms, and goes a step further in showing that the policy designed to ‘nurture’ or subsidise the U.S. shipping industry ‘under the guise of humanitarian assistance’ is not doing either effectively,” IRIN writes. According to study authors Christopher Barrett, Elizabeth Bageant and Erin Lentz, USAID has provided more than half of the world’s food aid for decades, but has been the “last and slowest donor to reform its food aid policies.”

“The Cornell researchers used data available for every USAID food aid shipment in 2006 … The un-reimbursed cost of ACP to food aid agencies was almost the same as what USAID spent on non-emergency food aid to Africa, which benefited 1.2 million people and was ‘widely deemed important to preventing food emergencies.’ USAID declined to comment on the findings of the study, saying the research ‘spoke for itself,’” according to the news service.

IRIN notes: “The ACP was put in place to achieve four objectives: ensure that U.S. vessels remained seaworthy and prepared should a war break out; maintain skilled jobs for American seafarers; maintain the financial viability of U.S. ships; protect U.S. ocean commerce from foreign domination.” But the authors found that “‘contrary to its national security and ‘buy American’ objectives,’ ACP used vessels which were not useful to the military, and most of the vessels used were ultimately owned by foreign corporations.”

The researchers suggest that officials re-examine the policy and possibly separate security and aid goals (7/13). 

EU Decides To Leave GM Decisions Up To Member States

The European Commission on Tuesday “dropped its bid to impose a one-size-fits-all approach” to the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) food in Europe, the Financial Times reports. “Brussels said it would now be up to each member state to decide whether to allow the cultivation of GM crops on its territory.”

“The move could help developing countries that want to grow and export GM crops but have been wary of doing so for fear their exports would be excluded from Europe under cross-contamination rules,” the newspaper notes. Currently the EU allows food to include “up to 0.9 percent unintended GM material, but this ruling has led some developing country governments and farmers to reject all GM crops.”

The decision to allow EU states to make their own rulings “will make it easier for member states to impose a ban on growing GM crops – as six in effect do already – [but it also] leaves the door open for their cultivation in pro-GM countries such as Spain and the Netherlands,” the Financial Times writes (Pignal/Harvey, 7/13).