Africa compelled to adopt GM (7/6/2004)


Recently we've seen how the biotech industry together with USAID, is seeking to export the kind of weak 'biosafety' system in South Africa to other parts of the continent. In southern Africa the charge is being led by the Southern Africa Regional Biosafety programme (SARB), a sub-unit of a much larger USAID-funded project which has private sector partners like Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred.

The following items all give a sense of the pressure that's being brought to bear on African countries, which one Minister articulates by saying, 'whether we like [it] or not, in [the][ future we will be compelled to adopt this technology'.

1.Southern African Development Community wants common position on GMOs
2.Tanzania looks abroad for GM advice
3.Botswana GM Product Regulation: Uphill Battle?
4.Biotech industry calls for regulation that favors investment and innovation

1.Southern African Development Community wants common position on GMOs
(taken from http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=84&art_id=qw1086513662278B255&set_id=1 )

A meeting of the Southern African Development Community's Parliamentary Forum in the Namibian capital, Windhoek called on SADC member states to come up with a common position on the safety of genetically modified organisms, and recommended that GM grain should not be imported into the region unless it was processed.

Zambia ignited a controversy in 2002 when it refused to accept GM grain that had been donated as food aid to ease the effects of a drought which brought much of southern Africa to the brink of famine. Zimbabwe and Mozambique were also said to be concerned about GM maize, notably the fact that it could contaminate their own, non-GM crops.

2.Tanzania looks abroad for GM advice
Deodatus Balile
6 May 2004
Source: SciDev.Net

[ARUSHA] The government of Tanzania has asked 29 of its ambassadors based in foreign countries to seek scientific advice from such countries to help it pave the way for adopting genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Speaking at a meeting of ambassadors in Arusha last month, Tanzania's minister for agriculture and food security, Charles Keenja, said that China, India, and South Africa, as well as the United Kingdom, the United States, and other developed countries, could help Tanzania to set up regulations on GMOs.

He called on the ambassadors to tap into the knowledge in these countries to "help our nation to solicit and acquire the right scientific skills on GMOs".

GM organisms would soon become indispensable, in the way that computers were today, Keenja said. He added that "whether we like [it] or not, in future we will be compelled to adopt this technology".

Last year, Tanzania was one of 14 countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) that agreed to adopt common rules on the use of GMOs (see Southern African nations adopt common GM strategy). Since then, Tanzania has set up a national committee to oversee the drafting of the laws on GMOs - and this committee will need the input of expertise from other countries, Keenja said.

"So far there is no outright evidence showing [any negative effects of] GMOs," Keenja said. He pointed out that 30 per cent of crops grown in the United States are genetically modified, and added that the technology could be a saviour to developing nations.

The ambassadors' meeting in Arusha was organised by the government as part of its strategy of changing Tanzanian foreign policy from being 'political focused' to involving what is being called 'economic diplomacy'.

3.Botswana GM Product Regulation: Uphill Battle?

A workshop organised on 28 April by the Ministry of Agriculture in Botswana, revealed that coming up with a framework for regulating GMOs might be a daunting task. Representatives from the Biotechnology Alliance of Namibia -- one of the countries at an advanced stage of framework formulation -- noted that setting up the framework often required trial and error.

Problems cited at the workshop included: revision of current laws; whether new import and trade legislation is needed; and fragmented controls scattered in different ministries across the country. Other participants noted difficulties in monitoring food that passes the borders, as the need for food was large in a continent that often experienced severe food shortage and famine.

While citing the opportunities presented by GM crops such as increased sustainable yield, Dr. Mmasera Manthe-Tsuaneng, the national Biosafety Coordinator for Botswana, also explained the threats: "Socio-economic consequences are potentially severe like displacement of cash crops and the disruption of small scale farming systems that are prevalent in developing countries like Botswana." Botswana has ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which requires countries to implement necessary biosafety frameworks.

4.Plant Science Industry Reiterates Its Call for a Consistent, Science-Based Regulatory Framework

EXCERPTS: Brussels, 3 June 2004 --- The Plant Science Industry has reiterated its call to governments worldwide for a consistent and science-based regulatory framework for the research and use of its products in agriculture and the food and feed chain.

"Our vision is for a regulatory system that favors investment and innovation. We will stifle innovation if our framework fails to provide sufficient financial rewards to justify continued investment," said Michael Pragnell, President, CropLife International and CEO, Syngenta, at the CropLife International Annual Conference in Brussels, Belgium.

The Conference gathered consumers, politicians and representatives from civil society, business and industry for a wide-ranging discussion on the role and impact of plant science on the world food agenda.

The Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety (the Biosafety Protocol)***: Industry is concerned with key outstanding issues in the Protocol text, particularly in relation to development of a specific liability and redress regime and documentation requirements for the trade of biotech organisms.

CropLife International is already working with international institutions and governments to ensure protection of human health and the environment, while also maintaining science- and risk-based, transparent, workable standards. CropLife International’s Reference Guide on Biosafety Frameworks Addressing the Release of Plant Living Modified Organisms and its recent publication on Water Matters for Sustainable Agriculture are prime examples of industry’s activities in this regard.

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