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2-Plants: Don't rush GMO use in Tanzania, says organic body

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

TITLE:  Don't Rush GMO Use in Tanzania, Says Organic Body
SOURCE: The East African, Kenya, by C. Akitanda
DATE:   25 Apr 2005

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Don't Rush GMO Use in Tanzania, Says Organic Body

As parliament is scheduled to debate and approve the use of genetically
modified organisms (GMO) mid this year, the secretariat of the committee
for the establishment of the Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement
(TOAM), called it "an unnecessary rush."

Jordan Gama, the secretary to the committee, said last week that there
was an unnecessary rush on the part of some government officials and
local scientists, especially the Arusha-based Tropical Pesticides
Research Institute (TPRI), to introduce GMOs in the country even before
the biosafety law is in place.

"We should stop the rush to introduce GMOs in Tanzania until proved safe
and conducive to smallholder farmers, our health and to our environment,
Mr Gama stated.

He said there should be a national public debate on GMOs, and all
Tanzanians should be given a chance to know what are GMOs and who is
pushing for their use in the country, what is the economic impact on
small-scale farmers and Tanzania's exports, especially to the European
Union, and the possible health and environmental risks.

According to Gama, before the introduction of GMOs, Tanzanian small
farmers should have a say, "Since genetic engineering isn't a normal
technology, and once introduced, field trials could eventually have
massive negative impacts on people's livelihood and environment that
could be irreversible."

"The majority of the investment in the production of GM crops is in the
hands of large transnational corporations that are profit-driven, and GM
crops are patented by these companies, which will force the smallscale
farmers in Africa to depend on them forever, said Mr Gama.

"We therefore say the country needs a 10-year moratorium on GMOs while
consulting stakeholders on the technology and building capacity to handle
the risks, he added.

Early this year, the Director of Research at the Ministry of Agriculture
and Food Security, Dr Jeremiah Haki, was quoted as saying a Cabinet paper
on GMO policy has already been prepared and parliament is scheduled to
debate and approve the approach GMO technologies mid this year.

Dr Haki further said, "Tanzania, which largely depends on agriculture,
cannot afford to ignore technologies that increase crop yields and
profits and reduce farm costs.

Earlier, Wilfred Ngirwa, the permanent secretary in the ministry had
issued a statement saying the ministry has, "proactively participated in
the development of a national policy for biotechnology that will soon be
tabled in the parliament."

This policy will give overall guidance on all issues related to
biotechnology including priority areas for research and development,
regulatory framework, sustainable use of biodiversity and resource

Mr Ngirwa said that, in the interim, the ministry has established the
Agricultural Biotechnology Scientific Advisory Committee (ABSAC) to
advise the minister on issues related to GMO including their importation,
safe handling and testing.

South Africa is the only African country that is already commercially
producing GM crops. Tanzania is among the countries that ratified the
Cartagena Protocol on biosafety, an international law negotiated under
the Convention on Biological Diversity that has basic requirements for
member countries to comply with when pursuing GMO technology.

Tanzania will later in the year start confined field trials of cotton in
the south of the country in a government move to halt the spread of the
redball worm disease that had hit the cotton crop.


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