GENET archive


6-Regulation: Time out for Tanzania's GMO law this year

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Keenja: Time out for GMO law this year
SOURCE: The Guardian, Tanzania, by Lucky Mkandawire
DATE:   6 Apr 2005

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Keenja: Time out for GMO law this year

Tanzania's chances of enacting a law to govern the introduction and
adoption of genetic engineering by the end of this year are very thin,
Agriculture and Food Security Minister Charles Keenja said on Monday.

The government is expected to table a Bill in Parliament to discuss
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) crops amid strong resistance and
persuasive campaigns from the public and Non Governmental Organisations
against its adoption.

Speaking during a discussion of agriculture stakeholders on biotechnology
in Dar es Salaam, the minister said the country was hesitating to enforce
the law before next year, since the legislative calendar for 2005 has no
room for it.

"We have been working on the regulations for over three years now but we
are not likely to have a law in place before 2006 because the legislative
timetable for 2005 has no room for it," he said.

Keenja explained that the country realises the importance of being part
of the biotechnology revolution but it was also equally crucial to make
necessary preparations, which will assure people that the new technology
is safe and to their advantage before its adoption.

He said much as he had not come across concrete evidence of adverse
effects of genetic engineering, the fears and suspicions persist and
"unless these are addressed, the adoption of the technology in most parts
of the world, Tanzania inclusive, is likely to be low."

Professor Vernon Gracen of the University of Cornell in USA, who was the
guest speaker during the discussion, told the participants that with the
country's economy so heavily dependent on agriculture, biotechnology had
great potential to protect it against food security and increase its

He explained that Tanzania and all the developing countries needed to
adopt GMO technology because, among other things, it increases
productivity, efficiency and profits.

'Farmers do not apply much labour to this technology that helps to feed
millions of people in a starving world," he said.

In this regard, the US expert urged both proponents and opponents of GMOs
to have the common goal of responsible use of biotechnology.

"Acknowledgement of both benefits and risks of biotech improves
transparent discussions and allows interested individuals to make
informed choices," Professor Gracen advised the patrons.

While in the country, Prof Gracen will also visit Sokoine University and
Arusha where he is expected to share some latest information on
agricultural biotechnology and discuss various aspects with Tanzanian
scientists, government representatives and other stakeholders.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  American Biotechnology Expert To Hold Workshops In Tanzania
SOURCE: United States Department of State / U.S. Embassy in Tanzania
DATE:   1 Apr 2005

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American Biotechnology Expert To Hold Workshops In Tanzania
Minister Keenja to officiate in Dar

A US expert on biotechnology is visiting Tanzania to discuss with
Tanzanian agriculture stakeholders the application of advances in
biotechnology in the agricultural sector.

The expert, Dr. Vernon Gracen from Cornell University in the United
States, will conduct workshops in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro and Arusha.
Over 300 participants are expected to attend the workshops, 70 of them
being in Dar es Salaam, 200 in Morogoro and 60 in Arusha.

The Dar es Salaam workshop will be officially opened by the Minister for
Agriculture and Food Security, Hon. Charles Keenja, at the New Africa
Hotel on Monday, April 4, 2005.

According to a statement from the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, the
workshops will be a good opportunity for stakeholders and policy makers
to share experiences on biotechnology, especially at this time when the
government of Tanzania is debating on biotechnology policy and
application of GMOs.

US Embassy's Spokesperson John Haynes, said the Embassy decided to invite
Dr. Gracen to the country because biotechnology has great potential for
protecting Tanzania against food scarcity, and increasing productivity by
developing insect, drought, and virus resistant crops. Currently, for
instance, scientists are developing virus resistant crops for Africa
including cassava, maize and sweet potato.

"With the Tanzanian economy so heavily dependent on agriculture, Dr.
Gracen can provide the latest information on biotechnology and possible
local applications," Haynes said, adding: "Cornell University is one of
the preeminent colleges on biotechnology in the United States and the
world at large."

Haynes noted that commercially available foods and crops using
biotechnology have been subjected to more testing and regulation than any
other agricultural products and have been found safe.

There is a growing trend toward the use of agricultural biotechnology in
the world with a forty-fold increase in the area of cultivation over the
past seven years. In 2003, six countries (the USA, Argentina, Canada,
Brazil, China and South Africa) grew 99 per cent of genetically
engineered crops in the world. Recently, two new countries - India and
The Philippines - have joined the group of countries that are growing
genetically engineered crops.

Dr. Vernon Gracen is a leading authority on plant breeding and genetics
at Cornell University in the United States. His primary areas of research
involve maize breeding for disease and insect resistance and he teaches
courses on traditional breeding methodologies and the application of new
technologies such as molecular technologies to improve major crop species.

Dr. Gracen is also involved with the Agricultural Biotechnology Support
Program (ABSPII) as an advisor on the development of product
commercialization packages. This programme supports the development and
commercial release of biotech products in South Asia, South East Asia,
East and West Africa. He advises primarily on product development,
testing, release and distribution.

In August 2002, another US expert on agricultural biotechnology, Dr. C.
S. Prakash visited Tanzania and met with Tanzanian scientists, describing
the potential of bio-engineered foods for the benefit of the country. Dr.
Prakash conducted a roundtable discussion at the Commission on Science
and Technology (COSTECH) with the National Biotechnology Committee, and
stakeholders on the Application of Biotechnology in Agricultural Production.

Agricultural biotechnology is a collection of scientific techniques used
to improve plants, animals and micro-organisms. Based on an understanding
of DNA, scientists have developed solutions to increase agricultural
productivity. Starting from the ability to identify genes that may confer
advantages on certain crops, and the ability to work with such
characteristics very precisely, biotechnology enhances breeders' ability
to make improvements in crops and livestock. Biotechnology enables
improvements that are not possible with traditional crossing of related
species alone.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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