9-Misc: GE food and plants praised at the AGOA Summit on Mauritius
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TITLE: Bush Renews Vow to Aid African Progress
SOURCE: The Washington Post, USA, by Peter Slevin
DATE: Jan 16, 2003
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Bush Renews Vow to Aid African Progress
President Bush emphasized expanded trade and government reform as the
keys to African economic progress yesterday in a videotaped speech to a
gathering of the continent's leading economic figures in Mauritius.
Development aid will go to "nations that encourage economic freedom, root
out corruption and respect the rights of their people," Bush said of the
Millennium Challenge Account designed to reward positive reforms. He said
a special African fund will support construction of bridges, roads and
In an address he taped after canceling a trip to the conference, Bush
renewed pledges of U.S. food aid, HIV-AIDS help and a 50 percent increase
in development assistance during the next three years. But he offered no
new initiatives to a meeting at which he had hoped to make a splash.
Bush made his remarks at a time when the continent is unable to feed
itself and drought conditions have put more than 25 million Africans at
risk. In Ethiopia, 7 million people will require international help this
month, a number expected to rise to 11 million by June, according to the
U.N. World Food Program.
"People will face starvation if not properly assisted before the
harvest," said WFP spokesman Khalid Mansour, who noted that the coming
growing season looks similarly bleak. "We don't have high hopes for a
harvest next time. We think this crisis might last for a whole year. We
are still at the beginning."
Bush, who postponed his Africa trip because of the intensifying
challenges of Iraq and North Korea, spoke in favor of extending the
Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, a Clinton administration initiative
set to expire in 2008.
Bush said the initiative "shows the power of trade to lift people out of
poverty. Exports from AGOA nations to the United States are rising
dramatically." He also told the group he plans to visit Africa before yearend.
A day earlier at the Mauritius conference, U.S. Trade Representative
Robert B. Zoellick urged African nations to reduce or eliminate
agricultural subsidies and "other impediments to fair and open
competition." Delegates were quick to point to huge U.S. agriculture
subsidies unfavorable to African products.
Increasing numbers of Africans have been unable to get enough food
because of the recent drought -- or, in some cases, because of nature's
caprice. Some parts of Ethiopia are suffering through a drought, while
others received so much rain in December that unharvested wheat and
barley crops were ruined, Mansour said.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) returned this month from Ethiopia and
neighboring Eritrea with a video of grim conditions reminiscent of the
mid-1980s famine that killed nearly 1 million Ethiopians.
Wolf pressed for more food aid last week in a meeting with Secretary of
State Colin L. Powell and Andrew Natsios, administrator for the U.S.
Agency for International Development, who will be in the region this
week. He sent letters to each of his House colleagues last week and to
the 100 members of the Senate on Monday. A letter and a copy of his trip
report were sent to editors of 125 newspapers.
"If these were Norwegian villages or Australian villages, the world would
be responding," said Wolf, who has asked the White House for an audience
with Bush. "This is the type of thing a compassionate conservative would
Wolf said the administration is "doing a lot, but probably not enough."
USAID reports that the U.S. government has delivered $198 million to
Ethiopia and Eritrea since July, an amount equivalent to about 474,000
metric tons of grain.
The administration also has been the largest donor to the WFP's food
programs in southern Africa, contributing $266 million last year. In
addition, the administration contributed food worth about $140 million to
Angola and Sudan.
Ethiopia's need is growing faster than its supply of food, Mansour said.
He added that contributions and pledges are 40 percent short of the 1
million metric tons needed in Ethiopia in the first six months of 2003.
"We're coming off a drought in 1999 and 2000. There have been so many
shocks over the last couple of years that some of these marginalized
communities are really hard hit. It's a really sad, sad situation," said
Margaret Schuler, the East Africa team leader for World Vision USA.
"We think the situation could be much worse by May and June," Schuler
said. "It's all going to depend on the donor response. USAID has done
quite a lot. We're hoping they could do more."
Wolf's chief of staff, Dan Scandling, taped a video that shows small
children with distended bellies, in some cases too weak to chew bread.
"Horrific. No medicine, no water," said Wolf, whose travels in Ethiopia
during the famine of the mid-1980s also shocked him. "I was thinking,
'This can't be again, and it is.' "
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TITLE: Biotechnology is Essential for the Future of Agriculture,
SOURCE: Government of Mauritius, Minister of Agriculture, Food Technology &
DATE: Jan 16, 2003
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Biotechnology is Essential for the Future of Agriculture, says Minister
Government of Mauritius (Port Louis)
Address by Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Minister of Agriculture, Food
Technology & Natural Resources at the Private Sector Forum - Agoa Summit.
In the name of the Government of Mauritius, I have the pleasure in
welcoming you to today's workshop in the context of the AGOA Summit. It
is indeed a great privilege for Mauritius to host such an important meeting.
I would like to thank the Secretariat of Partnership to Cut Hunger and
Poverty in Africa, for giving me the opportunity to address you on
'Agricultural Biotechnology', which is a topic of particular interest to
me, as Minister of Agriculture, Food Technology & Natural Resources.
Biotechnology is in fact one of the main challenges at the centre of the
agenda of the Government of Mauritius, at this current juncture, where
the whole strategy within our agriculture is being revisited, with a view
to imparting to it, a new technological boost.
With regard to the status of biotechnology in Mauritian agriculture,
efforts at the national level into triggering its implementation have
started since the early 1990's. Taking into consideration the fact that
conventional practices have become too obsolete to sustain in the present
socio-economic context, with inter-alia, mounting competition from other
producer countries, increasing consumer and market exigencies, ever
rising food import bill, increasingly stringent international norms
governing trade in agriculture and depleting cultivable land resources in
favour of more remunerative economic activities, Government initiated a
number of endeavours to promote technology integration in agriculture.
Accordingly, some studies on the feasibility and strategic implementation
of biotechnology integration were conducted; a special high-powered
committee was established to map out a strategic orientation to this
effect; investments were made into the setting up of infrastructure for
biotechnology research and application, with the inception of two tissue
culture laboratories under the aegis of the Ministry, and special
budgetary provisions were allocated by Government to promote
One of the achievements in the application of biotechnology in the non-
sugar agricultural sector to date is mainly tissue-culture propagation of
planting materials of elite banana varieties and some ornamentals
including orchids and anthurium. Experimentations are ongoing in other
areas of application, such as molecular based disease screening and
vaccine production for the local livestock sector.
The sugar sector has witnessed successful accomplishments in
biotechnology, which have greatly benefited the industry at large. This
sector, which is endowed with the strong research back up of the
Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute (MSIRI), has been a solid
proof to Mauritius as to the potential of biotechnology as an enabling
tool in enhancing productivity.
Some of the successful achievements in the application of biotechnology
in the sugar sector, include: a. the application of molecular techniques
for rapid disease screening, which has enabled better control of major
pests; b. the use of tissue culture for rapid multiplication of planting
material, which has enhanced the efficiency of propagation of high
quality planting materials ; c. the use of molecular markers which has
enhanced efficiency of breeding of novel varieties; and, d. recently, the
use of genetic engineering for the development of transgenic herbicide
resistant varieties, which are still at the experimental stage, awaiting
the enactment of the appropriate legislation prior to proceeding to field
Moreover, the Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute has played a
crucial role in providing training in specialised agricultural fields,
including biotechnology, to African research and extension personnel.
The country has also set up initiatives to broaden its capacity in the
field of biotechnology. In addition to the several collaborative linkages
that Mauritius has developed with recognised institutions for training in
specialised areas of biotechnology, the University of Mauritius has also
included biotech as a major area in its agricultural curriculum.
However, other than for the sugar sector, it has been noted that benefits
of biotechnology accruing to the end users have so far remained
insignificant. We feel that, the time is now overdue to devise a well-
defined biotechnology development strategy with an agenda based on our
national priorities. It is high time to move beyond dialogue to
constitute a catalyst for change towards a modern agriculture. With
recent changes in the global trade environment and the fragile situation
prevailing within the sugar sector, our non-sugar agricultural sector
will be called upon to assume an even more significant role in our
agricultural economy, and, technology integration will be imperative to
impart to it the necessary cutting edge.
I am fully convinced that Biotechnology is an essential tool for the
future of our agriculture. We are already lagging behind in the
technology strive in this new agricultural era, and, we cannot afford to
allow this situation to persist any longer. Since I took office in
September 2000, one of my priorities has been to give the necessary
impetus to successfully steer the transition process towards a
technology-based approach to agriculture. The objective is to have a
well-defined strategy, with a view to fostering biotechnology in a
priority-driven manner, with a service orientation. Such a directed
approach is very important, considering the fact that biotechnology is an
investment-intensive technology, thereby calling for an intelligent
planning and a judicious utilisation of resources.
Towards that end and in line with national priorities, the Government of
Mauritius is proposing to set up an Agricultural Biotechnology Institute.
A feasibility study on this project has already been completed and the
construction phase will soon be initiated. This project is highly
ambitious and entails a heavy financial implication. Its implementation
will be possible thanks to the strong government commitment to
biotechnology, with due recognition to the crucial role it is going to
play in shaping the future of our agriculture.
This Institute will provide a solid scientific infrastructural foundation
for high calibre applied research in biotechnology within the appropriate
administrative and legislative framework, and will have the
responsibility of providing the targeted technological boost to the
Mauritian non-sugar sector. It will be endowed with a strong scientific
resource skill base, which is in fact one major asset that Mauritius
possesses in the field of Biotechnology.
I have the firm belief that Mauritius has all the necessary aptitudes to
eventually take up a leading role in the field of biotechnology at the
regional level. With the coming into operation of this Agricultural
Biotechnology Institute in the near future, Mauritius will definitely be
able to strengthen its position to positively contribute to the adoption
of biotechnology within the African region and assist neighbouring
countries in their respective biotechnology programmes. The aim is to
make the Biotechnology Institute emerge as a Centre of Excellence and
provide a strong base for training and service dissemination at the
regional level. This aim is consistent with the longer-term vision of
making Mauritius emerge as a regional hub.
We are also well aware of the existing controversies that biotechnology
entails. In order to ensure that the benefits of this technology are
optimised while minimising the possible risks, Government has adopted the
precautionary approach as spelt out in the Principle 15 of the Rio
Declaration of 1992 on Environment and Development.
Mauritius is therefore fostering a responsible approach to biotechnology
by setting up the necessary legislative framework to provide for adequate
biosafety measures. Alongside, with a view to gaining public confidence
and consumer acceptance of the products of biotechnology, a number of
sensitisation programmes have been initiated at the level of my Ministry.
Through these sensitisation campaigns, we are aiming at providing maximum
information especially with regard to GMOs, so as to dissipate any
unfounded apprehensions that may surround this technology and to enable
informed decisions to be taken thereon. In this context, we had the
privilege of having Dr Prakash, who is here among us today, in August of
last year to provide his expert guidance to us on our biotechnology strive.
These to some extent sum up the experience of Mauritius in Biotechnology
and the present status of things.
I would now like to say a few words regarding the theme of today's
workshop, that is 'The Future of Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa:
Potential and Risks for Trade and Food Security'. This issue is in fact
currently at the centre of intensive debate, especially when the impact
of biotechnology on Africa's agricultural and economic performance and
welfare is being seriously reflected upon. The two main issues that
dominate this debate are the persistent poor agricultural performance
associated with widespread poverty, and the ability of biotechnology as a
promising tool to resolve Africa's growing food crises along with its
associated benefits and perceived effects on the continent's rich natural
The issue of whether to adopt biotechnology or not, is however a
situation-dependent debate. Today, statistics demonstrate that, more than
200 million people suffer from chronic malnutrition with more than 10% of
infant mortality being registered in Africa, compared to 0.8 % in high-
income countries. These figures provide overwhelming evidence, that the
needs for biotechnology in the African context are quite different from
those of industrial countries. Africa's priority is that of food
security, while that of industrial countries is market and profit driven.
Thus, it is clear that Africa's agenda should be based on the urgency for
a strong technological back-up to enhance food production with a view to
altering the course of widespread poverty, hunger and starvation. These
distinctions must be clearly understood and appreciated at the national,
regional and international levels.
Therefore, I believe that the ongoing debate about biotechnology for
Africa should not be whether the continent needs biotechnology or not.
Instead, it should be one on how biotechnology can be best adopted,
promoted, supported and applied in a safe and sustainable manner, that
would contribute towards an improved agriculture, and to the social and
economic upliftment of the people of Africa.
We all understand the numerous controversies and apprehensions regarding
the products of modern biotechnology, i.e. genetically modified organisms
(GMOs). We all agree that a wise approach is required to ensure that, at
the end, more harm than good is not done. However, decisions cannot be
taken in a misguided manner based on misinformation. Instead decisions
should be based on founded scientific evidence.
Biotechnology is crucial for Africa. We should bear in mind that Africa
depends heavily on agriculture, which contributes to 30 % of the
continent's GDP and provides more than 70% of its jobs. I believe that GM
crops represent a big hope for a number of African nations in solving the
devastating plague of hunger and poverty.
It will be unwise to dismiss the potential of this technology outright,
particularly in the African context. Biotechnology provides solution to
the most pressing hindrances to agricultural production in Africa, such
as limited cultivable land resources, large expanses of non-arable areas,
water scarcity,etc. If today, with this technology, the possibility of
growing crops in the most sterile, aluminium rich soils can be
contemplated, can we then dispute its relevance to Africa? We know that a
number of African States have resisted accepting and have declared their
strong opposition to genetically modified crops, including those facing
The possibility of biosafety threats exists. However, the strategy for
minimising these threats also exists through the adoption of the
appropriate precautionary approach by way of legislation. I would
therefore urge all African Nations to pull efforts together in finding
the appropriate approach that would allow optimal benefits to be derived
out of this highly powerful technology that holds great promises for
Africa. Undoubtedly, the solution to food security in Africa lies in a
judicious utilisation of the benefits of biotechnology.
As far as the trade aspect is concerned, obviously, the trade potential
for agricultural products emanating from non-controversial biotechnology
is significant and is growing rapidly worldwide. This technology brings
along competitive production, better quality produce and novel products
to satisfy new market exigencies and tap new markets. There is a need for
developed nations and large food importing countries to support African
states in developing their agriculture through the appropriate and safe
utilisation of biotechnology by ensuring market outlets for products
ensuing from this technology. Trade agreements and biosafety norms and
regulations need henceforth to take this fundamental issue on board.
Coming to the question of investment involved in the adoption of
innovative technologies in agriculture, Africa will have to continuously
rely on international aid, which needs to be increasingly directed
towards providing not only financial resources, but more importantly
technical assistance and transfer of technology.
In addition, the HIV and Aids problem is dramatically taking its toll of
human life and has become a monstrous obstacle to development, especially
in Africa. Assistance, be it financial or otherwise, I believe, should be
extended to cover the fight against HIV and Aids as well. If developed
donor countries and International Aid Organisations could contribute
towards this objective financially and technically, their initiatives to
assist Africa would effectively bring longer-term benefits to the Continent.
Clearly, Africa cannot ignore biotechnology developments in agriculture.
While not all biotechnology products will be appropriate for Africa, some
will bring value to food security and trade. Identifying appropriate
technology must be supported by the evaluation of risks and benefits to
ensure informed decision-making. In this respect, there are two
fundamental points to be considered: (1) The evaluation of existing
biotechnology products for their appropriateness, safety and true value
to Africa. (2) The development of new biotechnology products in Africa to
address African specific constraints.
To make informed decisions on biotechnology products and to use the
technology for the continent's benefit, African governments need to
ensure an effective biosafety process; a functioning agricultural R & D
sector; government funding for research; a well-informed and engaged
public and the political will to implement policy on biotechnology.
Having said this, I believe that this forum, grouping eminent specialists
in the field, will serve as the ideal platform to reflect seriously on
the 'Future of Biotechnology in Africa'. I wish you all a very fruitful
workshop, and hope that by the end of the discussions, a consensus is
reached on this issue.
Let me seize this opportunity to wish all foreign delegates a pleasant
stay in our country. On this note, I thank you for your kind attention.