Beware of GM foods - Africa warned by Tanzania's Vice President (13/8/2004)

Beware of GM foods, Shein tells Africa
By Pastory Nguvu
Guardian (Tanzansa), 13 August 2004

[Vice-President Ali Mohamed Shein (second left) chats with Malawi's Justice Minister Henry Foya (left) as Industry and Trade Minister Dr Juma Ngasongwa (R)...]

Africa should not be forced to accept genetically modified foods, Vice-President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein said yesterday.

He said African countries must give serious consideration to related consequences before accepting genetically modified foods under the pretext of fighting hunger.

Dr Shein made the remarks in Dar es Salaam when opening the Ninth Session of the Council of Ministers of the African Regional Industrial Property Organisation (Aripo).

"If we want to ensure that our countries are not turned into experimental grounds, we need to develop and have the requisite capacity at both the national and regional levels.

This will enable us to assess the safety of the genetically modified foods to the health of our people and to the protection of our environment," he said.

The patenting of life forms had given rise to various moral, religious and ethical questions on biotechnology as it posed tremendous challenges in sciences and technology, the vice-president said.

Gene manipulation has led to a number of scientific and technological breakthroughs in health, agriculture, industry and environment.

"The super yields of crops, strengthened strains of crops vulnerability to pests and enhanced crops resistance to drought are few examples of this breakthroughs,” Dr Shein said, adding that the breakthroughs could be perfect solution to problems African countries were facing.

He said the Council of Ministers should be aware of the underlying danger of biotechnology and its gene manipulation.

Dr Shein said: "As developing countries, we have to address ourselves to the issues of sustainability, perpetual dependency of the suppliers of genetically modified seeds, and health hazards to consumers of generally modified foods."

On the Intellectual Property System, Dr Shein said the introduction of common global standards of protection in intellectual property under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property System (Trips) Agreement faced various constraints in its implementation process.

He attributed the anomaly to inadequate infrastructure to support its meaningful and effective implementation.

One of the constraints is a lack of understanding among the African people of not only the existence of those intellectual property systems, but also the need to protect them according to standards set by the International Agreement.

"The problem is even more magnified, when intellectual property appears to hinder the poor, from accessing essential medicines for serious diseases, such as HIV and Aids, which have devastating effects, especially on the people in developing countries," Dr Shein said.

Earlier, the Economic Development Bureau of Africa Director, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the value of intellectual property as a strategic tool for economic growth and development is widely recognised.

Onyeama said when presenting a statement earlier on behalf of the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo) that one of the challenges facing African countries today was to increase the volume of intellectual property assets to enhance Africa's competitiveness in the global market through their commercialization.

source: Guardian

Go to a Print friendly Page

Email this Article to a Friend

Back to the Archive