GENET archive


6-Regulation: Zimbabwe drafting GMO regulations

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TITLE:  Govt in move to control biotech operations
SOURCE: The Chronicle, Zimbabwe, by Deborah-Fay Ndlovu
DATE:   8 Sep 2005

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Govt in move to control biotech operations

THE Government is drafting legislation to control operations of
biotechnology, a senior official with the BioSafety Board has said.

The Registrar of the BioSafety Board of Zimbabwe, Mr Abisai Mafa, said
yesterday that a Zimbabwe Biotechnology Policy would be launched in
November after Cabinet approved principles for a National Biotechnology Bill.

"The comprehensive national policy on biotechnology was approved last
month. Principles for a Bill to provide for the management of all
biotechnologies including genetic modification have also been approved by
Cabinet," said Mr Mafa in a written response to questions from Business

He said the policy to be launched in November sought to create an
enabling environment for development of biotechnology.

"A lot of investment will be put into agriculture, health, environment
and industrial processes. This is to encourage the use of biotechnology
and to provide a regulatory framework. The policy also seeks to promote
entrepreneurship development of the sector along with regional and
international linkages," he said.

Mr Mafa said drafting of the Bill was based on consultative work done
with stakeholders last November.

He said biotechnology needed to be regulated, as it was susceptible to abuse.

"Zimbabwe views biotechnology as a science that can be used for both
beneficial and harmful purposes.

The technology is seen as a useful tool in agricultural development,
human health, environmental management and industrial processing.

"If allowed to get into wrong hands biotechnology can be used to develop
biological weapons.

There are also concerns that some unscrupulous scientists could engage in
human cloning.

"Thus the law requires that all biotechnology research institutions be
registered with the Board and their work monitored," said Mr Mafa.

Biotechnology refers to a science of manipulation of living organisms. It
covers cloning and the development of Genetically Modified Organisms,
among others.

The registrar said field trials had been conducted on GMOs.

"There are a few private and public institutions engaged in modern
biotechnology research in Zimbabwe. To date, limited laboratory and field
trials with Genetically Modified Crops have been conducted by the
agricultural industry under the supervision of the (Bio Safety) Board,"
he said without giving the names of institutions involved in development
of GMOs.

He, however, said most of the institutions were still to come up with
solid products because of the economic and environmental challenges
presented in the development of GMOs.

"Zimbabwe has not yet commercialised any GMOs. No one is yet to come up
with a final product. The commercial production of GMOs presents social,
environmental, safety and economic challenges. Most of the challenges are
due to the cutting edge nature of the science and perceptions. To address
the challenges appropriate risk assessment and risk management strategies
are a prerequisite. Thus in Zimbabwe all GMO research, development and
application is subjected to thorough risk assessment reviews before
authorisation," said the registrar.


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