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9-Misc: SADC Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and Biosafetylaunched

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TITLE:  SADC Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and Biosafety launched
SOURCE: SADC Secretariat, Botswana
DATE:   Apr 16, 2003

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The Executive Secretary of SADC, Dr. Prega Ramsamy this morning (16
April) launched the SADC Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and
Biosafety in Gaborone, Botswana noting that the region has "no harmonized
legislation on biotechnology and how to handle Genetically Modified
Organisms (GMOs)."

Dr. Ramsamy said the committee, is therefore expected "to develop
guidelines to safeguard Member States against potential risks in the
areas of human and animal food safety, contamination of genetic resources
taking into account ethical, and trade-related issues including consumer

While acknowledging the potential of genetic engineering revolutionising
agriculture, health, environment and other sectors, Dr. Ramsamy cautioned
that "we are, however, convinced that, like any other technology,
biotechnology offers both potential and risks for the world community."

"We therefore face the challenges to be prepared and ready to move
swiftly to harmonise our regulatory policies and strengthen our risk
assessment capabilities," he said.

The launching of the committee follows the SADC Council of Ministers'
directive for its establishment in October last year in Luanda, Angola.
The Council also urged all Member States to develop their national
legislations by 2004 taking into account the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol
and the Draft OAU Biosafety Model Legislation as a guide.

Dr. Ramsamy told the Gaborone gathering of biotechnology experts, who are
drawn from across the region, that "we are convinced that this mix of
expertise will form a strong team that will guide Member States in their
development of their legislations."

The committee is expected to use as working tools the findings of the
Zambian biotechnology mission report and SADC fact-finding missions
report to the US, Europe and South Africa and make appropriate
recommendations to be submitted to SADC Council of Ministers meeting
scheduled for August 2003 in Tanzania.

Public Relations/Information Unit
SADC Secretariat
Gaborone, Botswana.