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9-Misc: Time for Africa to audit effects of biotechnology

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TITLE:  Time for Africa to audit effects of biotechnology
SOURCE: Business Day, South Africa,3523,1231421-
DATE:   Nov 22, 2002

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Time for Africa to audit effects of biotechnology

Biotechnology is having a serious effect on the socioeconomic situation in 
Africa, and African governments through bodies such as the African Union 
should commission an independent audit of these effects.

This was one of the resolutions in the Lusaka declaration on modern 
biotechnology, ethics and other legitimate factors, issued at the end of a 
stormy three-day conference organised by Consumers International.

The meeting brought together proponents and opponents of biotechnology, 
particularly in relation to food security. Participants were mainly 
academics and consumer representatives. The US government and European 
Union mission declined invitations.

At one stage the proponents of biotechnology, who included Jocelyn Webster 
of Pretoria-based AfricaBio, Wynand van der Walt of the SA National Seed 
Organisation and Diran Makinde of Venda University School of Agriculture, 
walked out, claiming that the information given by opponents was outdated.

Opponents of biotechnology, including Mae Wan Ho, director of the London-
based Institute for Science in Society, and Michael Hansen of the US 
Consumers Union, called for international support for the Zambian 
government's stand in rejecting a US offer of genetically modified relief 

They said genetically modified food was being foisted on Africa by 
countries or companies with commercial interests.

"Africa's objections are tossed aside," said Amadou Kanoute, Consumers 
International's regional director, who chaired the conference.

The declaration said commercial companies should stop exerting undue 
influence on policy- and decision-making.

The Africa office of Consumers International should establish a regional 
network on bioethics, and develop position papers on the topic.

The conference also called for immediate labelling of all foods containing 
derivatives of biotechnology, whether for hunger relief or sale.

Governments should ratify treaties that govern the transboundary movement 
of genetically modified organisms.


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