GENET archive


6-Regulation: Guayana develops biosafety system

Dear GENET-news readers,

this message on GE crops growing in Guaya has been circulated recently:

"The tomato with the brand name Pik Ripe is being imported by Caribbean
Chemicals and is the first of what might become a range of genetically
modified (GM food) that can increase yields while actually decreasing
dangerous pesticide use. [...] Another GM crop being grown already in
Guyana is a variety of corn that is informally imported from Brazil and
Venezuela by Amerindians where it is widely available. Such corn has a
naturally occurring bacteria inserted into its gene makeup that resists

It seems that the information is not correct. Pik Ripe tomatoes are not
GE but conventionally bred. I have not heard about an illegal seed market
of Bt corn in Brazil and Venezuela, but maybe you know more about it?

Hartmut Meyer

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  GM tomatoes at vanguard of second green revolution
SOURCE: Stabbroek News, Guayana
DATE:   14 Jan 2005

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GM tomatoes at vanguard of second green revolution

Imagine a tomato that can be picked ripe and then lasts four to six
weeks. Such a tomato is available in Guyana and you have may eaten one

The tomato with the brand name Pik Ripe is being imported by Caribbean
Chemicals and is the first of what might become a range of genetically
modified (GM food) that can increase yields while actually decreasing
dangerous pesticide use.

There are concerns over the effects of GM crops on health, but Victor
Pires of Caribbean Chemicals says the fears are not founded. He says in
the case of the tomatoes it is not strictly a GM food because the
scientists have simply removed the gene that began the process of
breaking down the fruit's cells. He has two clients who are using them in
remote locations where it takes some time to transport produce to the
coast. The only drawback is that the seeds are five times more expensive
than regular hybrids.

Another GM crop being grown already in Guyana is a variety of corn that
is informally imported from Brazil and Venezuela by Amerindians where it
is widely available. Such corn has a naturally occurring bacteria
inserted into its gene makeup that resists caterpillars. This means
yields are much higher and there is no need for pesticides that can
themselves be harmful.

Pires notes there is a divide in the world over the use of GM foods which
is really between the developing world and the developed. Many in
developed countries are ambivalent over their use as it is considered
tampering with nature.

But Pires says this is a luxury many in the Third World can hardly
contemplate. They simply need food. He points to work by the
International Rice Research Institute which has developed a strain of
rice enriched with the vitamin A through genetic modification. He also
cites the development of a cotton variety that obviates the need for
dangerous pesticides.

Work is now ongoing with cash crops such as lettuce and cabbage that can
be sprayed directly with a safer weedicide although these may be a few
years away.

There have been some stranger projects including a bell pepper with DNA
from a fish added to it to make it more frost-tolerant. Such examples
have environmentalists labelling GM products as Frankenfood, and attempts
to introduce GM wheat have been abandoned by Monsanto, the world's
biggest seller of GM seed.

John Caesar, Guyana's Bio-safety Project Co-ordinator, says most
developing countries do not have the technological or human resources for
the monitoring or development of advanced bio-technological research.

But he says that within 18 months a project would allow for labs to be
set up to monitor what is or is not a GM product and their potential risk
to the environment. The project would also help raise awareness about the
benefits and drawbacks of biotechnology.

A large proportion of the soybean grown in the US is genetically modified
and this is in all likelihood being imported for use in poultry and
cattle feed.

What concerns local observers is the threat GM seeds and plants, living
modified organisms (LMOs), might have upon Guyana's indigenous plants
through cross pollination. The European Union and Japan are willing to
maintain labelling and traceability standards for GM food products, while
the United States claims it violates free trade agreements.

Farmers in the United Kingdom discovered that they had been growing GM
crops for two years when plants had accidentally been exposed to GM
material from nearby fields. This could become a factor in Guyana's
attempts to find a niche for organic food.

There is also the potential risk of gene transfer between LMOs and wild
plants that may be repositories of important genes that should not be

Personnel at Customs and Trade Administration and the Bureau of Standards
were not able to say if Guyana imports GM foods or products and in what

Despite the concerns, Caesar says Guyana could benefit from biotechnology
which should still be seen as a tool that allows for the development of
plants, animals, and human health beyond the traditional methods.

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

TITLE:  Use of biotechnology can impact on exports - workshop hears
SOURCE: Stabbroek News, Guayana
DATE:   29 Jul 2004

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Use of biotechnology can impact on exports - workshop hears

Biotechnology and how it affects exports and food safety were among the
issues addressed at a workshop yesterday to launch a national biosafety
project here.

Addressing participants, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Thomas Gass
noted that the world has made significant advancements in the area of
biotechnology that have brought new responsibilities and risks.

He said these can positively or negatively affect import and export
opportunities and therefore, as a developing nation, Guyana must ensure
its population is aware.

Guyana's National Biosafety Project and Workshop was launched at the
Ocean View Convention Centre, Liliendaal, George-town yesterday with the
objective of raising awareness, educating and stimulating public
participation in biosafety. Guyana became a signatory to the United
Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on August 29, 1994.

Gass noted that Living and Genetically Modified Organisms (LMOs and GMOs)
and their products (GM foods) are here to stay.

He said it was important to recognise that biosafety is designed to
regulate more efficient use of agricultural resources and not to deal
with toxic substances. He added that the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
was implemented to ensure developing nations have a say in how they are
to advance using biotechnology. Biotechnology can restrict or enhance
Guyana's chances for export. But it can also provide assistance in
creating organic products for sale in niche markets.

Prime Minister Sam Hinds in declaring the workshop open said while
biotechnology could be used for human advancement, Guyana needed to be
conscious of its reactions with regard to food safety and health. The
introduction of the national biosafety framework is important to Guyana
because of our rich biodiversity, which requires protection for future
generations and also falls in line with the environmental ethos enshrined
in the constitution.

He said the relevance of biosafety is evident in the potential trade
value of genetically modified goods and the framework would help to
ensure that Guyanese are better informed about exports, imports and in-
transit genetically enhanced foods.

He opined that the workshop on biosafety is a strategic starting point
for awareness among the public who are the relevant stakeholders in the
success of the project.

                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  EPA to develop bio-safety framework
SOURCE: Stabbroek News, Guayana
DATE:   5 Jun 2004

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EPA to develop bio-safety framework Saturday, June 5th 2004

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been identified as the
executing agency for an 18-month project that will develop a National
Bio-safety Framework for Guyana in conformity with the Cartagena Protocol
on Bio-safety.

A press release from the EPA said that the protocol deals with such
modified organisms that are to be intentionally introduced into the
environment such as seeds, fish and modified farm commodities like food
grains, corn, wheat and soybean, also animal feed and industrial crops
like cotton.

The EPA said that Guyana's project proposal for the development of a
national bio-safety framework inclusive of government policy on and
regulatory framework for biotechnology and bio-safety and related public
awareness and education was approved in February this year.

Meanwhile, within the next few weeks the release said, the public would
be informed about the importance and the implications of the project for
the import and export of commodities, food and health safety and the
multi-stakeholder National Bio-safety Committee of the EPA.

According to the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological
Diversity, Hamdallah Zedan, "with the science of biotechnology advancing
at such a rapid pace, it is vital that developing countries and countries
with economies in transition have the human resources and the
institutions they need for promoting bio-safety."

The Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety, an international convention, came
into force in September 2003, and sets out the first comprehensive
regulatory system for ensuring the safe transfer, handling and use of
living and genetically modified organisms (LMOs/GMOs) and their products.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with funding from the
Global Environment Facility (GEF) has instituted the National Bio-
Diversity Framework capacity building projects to help parties meet their
obligations under the protocol.

The release said also that LMOs or GMOs and related food, feed,
industrial and pharmaceutical products developed through modern
biotechnology now offers potential benefits such as higher crop yields,
disease and pest-resistant crops, nutrient-rich food crops, less
herbicide use in agriculture, gene therapy, increased yield in
pharmaceutically potent natural products from plants and other organisms
and a variety of socio-economic benefits. However, such genetically
modified crops and some of the other products derived from them may pose
potential risks to the environment, eco-systems, bio-diversity, food
safety and related human health. The EPA therefore advised that a
cautious approach is desirable.

Dr. Indarjit Ramdass, Director of the Natural Resource Management
Division of the EPA, is chairman of the National Coordinating Committee,
while John Cartey Caesar, a former senior lecturer and Dean of the
Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Guyana, has been
appointed the National Project Coordinator. The EPA's Executive Director
Doorga Persaud has overall responsibility for the project.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinäckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig

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