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TITLE:  Comesa to Have Regional GMO Policy
SOURCE: The Times of Zambia
DATE:   Nov 21, 2002

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Comesa to Have Regional GMO Policy

AGRICULTURAL ministers from Comesa have agreed to come up with a regional 
policy on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) as the issue had now become 
a matter of general concern.

According to a statement released in Lusaka yesterday from the Comesa 
secretariat, the ministers also agreed on the need to formulate an 
agricultural policy and strategy, on the impact of HIV/AIDS on small 
holders agricultural production, market access, and rural infrastructure.

This should also include the establishment of networks of agricultural 
commodity exchange to increase transparency by providing market information 
and to support funding mechanism initiatives geared towards poor farmers.

This funding mechanism could be through rural financial services initiated 
and supported by individual governments, as well as the introduction of 
insurance schemes to support lending to farmers in terms of averting the 
risks foreseen by lending institutions.

The ministers meeting held in Kampala, Uganda on November 4, noted that the 
issue of GMOs had become of general concern to the member states, hence the 
need for a regional policy.

Export of food from surplus countries like Uganda to shortage areas within 
the region if supported by food donors would to some extent reduce the need 
to import GMOs.

Uganda, as an example, was expected to export up to 60,000 tonnes of maize 
by the end of the year to countries like Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Officially opening the meeting, Ugandan Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi 
emphasised the need to balance exploitation of agriculture and investment 
to make it sustainable.

Professor Nsibambi said: "we need to ask ourselves why agricultural sector 
has performed dismally in the post colonial era. The answer to this lies in 
investment. For far too long we have behaved like miners where once a mine 
ceases, it closes and miners move in search of new deposits."

But in agriculture, this was not productive as it was not sustainable and 
likewise, policies in the sector had been extractive, focusing more on what 
could be got out of the sector than on what must be invested into it to 
ensure sustainable growth.

At the same function, Comesa secretary general Erastus Mwencha pointed out 
the worrying food security in the region for this year and next year which 
he described as precarious.

Total food imports required to avert starvation in the region are eight 
million tonnes to cost $672.622,000.


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