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6-Regulation: Laws needed in Namibia to control genetic products

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Laws Needed to Control Genetic Products
SOURCE: New Era, Namibia, by Frederick Philander
DATE:   2 Jul 2004

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Laws Needed to Control Genetic Products

IT would be useless to ratify the Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for
Food and Agriculture without the necessary Namibian legislation solidly
in place, the leader of the official opposition, Katuutire Kaura said on
Tuesday in Parliament.

He was one of several MPs who expressed concerns about the ratification
of such a treaty in the absence of the Minister of Agriculture and Water
Affairs, Helmuth Angula, who tabled the motion last week.

"Namibia does not have scientists to advise us timely on the dangers of
genetic food products, nor has proper research been done. Personally I
have fears for the genetic products due to a lack of expert knowledge
without which we will go down as having made a wrong judgement, if we
haphazardly ratify the treaty," Kaura said.

The Minister of Higher Education and Employment Creation, Nahas Angula,
reminded the House that the treaty aims to protect the indigenous plant
seeds against the thread of genetic ones.

"Namibia is basically hundred percent dependent on South Africa, where a
lot of research on genetic resources have been made for its food supply.
Unless we summarily stop the importation of food from there, we need to
embark on a programme to feed ourselves," Angula said.

"In my opinion the ratification of this treaty is premature. There should
be more consultation on the subject. Genetic foodstuffs is a serious
matter that can for instance have serious consequences on our trade
relations with countries such as America who primarily use genetic plants
for commercial purposes," said Jesya Nyamu.

The Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Employment Creation, Hadino
Hishongwa, was also skeptical about the products.

"In my opinion genetic products that are produced in developed countries
where they not consumed are dumped in under-developed countries. I am
also scared of this type of food, which has negative side effects to the
detriment of people," Hishongwa said.

The Minister of Finance, Sara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, said Namibians were
not well aware of the impact of genetic products.

"We will all be vulnerable to these products. There is a dire need for
the developed world to more thoroughly research the products and share
their findings with the developing world, which should also be involved
in the distribution of such foodstuffs. Such countries should be held
accountable to assist the rest of the world. Presently poor countries are
threatened to accept genetic products," she said.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Water Affairs, Paul Smit, told the
House that there are some pros and cons to genetic products.

"However, my ministry is busy preparing legislation on genetic products,"
Smit said.

The Speaker, Mosť Tjitendero, observed that the House was not properly
equipped to speak on the matter.

"From the looks of things, we are talking in the dark about this very
important issue," Tjitendero said, after which Buddy Wentworth reminded
the House that there had been a gathering of experts on genetic food
products some time ago, and undertook to provide the House with factual
material on the subject.

Ben Amathila of Swapo's proposal that experts on genetic products be
invited to advise, and that a special committee be set up, was accepted
by the House after which the debate was adjourned until next Tuesday.


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