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6-Regulation: National Biosafety Framework to be in place by year-end in Bangladesh

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TITLE:  National Biosafety Framework to be in place by year-end
SOURCE: The Daily Star, Banglasdesh, by Reaz Ahmad
DATE:   09 Feb 2006

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National Biosafety Framework to be in place by year-end

The National Biosafety Framework (NBF) will be readied by the year-end to
kick start applications of genetic modification in crops and livestock in
the country without causing any harm to the natural environment.

The decision to finalise the NBF by December 2006 was taken at the first
meeting of the National Coordination Committee on Biosafety held at the
Ministry of Environment and Forest yesterday.

Biosafety refers to the maintenance of safe conditions in biological
research to prevent harm to labs, field workers and the environment.

Sources involved in the NBF drafting process told The Daily Star that
once Bangladesh puts all regulatory set-ups in place under a full-fledged
biosafety framework, the land-strapped country will be free to produce,
transfer and research genetically modified (GM) crops.

Official sources confirm that Bangladesh has four varieties on its
priority list of GM crops drought and saline tolerant rice, late blight
resistant potato, fruit and shoot borer resistant eggplant and pod borer
resistant chickpea.

Rice Research Institute (BRRI) and Bangladesh Agricultural Research
Institute (BARI) are at the final stage of testing GM rice and eggplant
in greenhouse environment. They will then field-test those prior to
releasing the GM varieties for commercial production.

Though a biosafety guideline was officially gazetted in 1999, it was re-
modified in line with the Cartagena Protocol, to which Bangladesh is a
signatory, and has been lying with the Prime Minister's Office for final
approval for over six months now, sources said.

But as the guideline did not suffice to fully gear up Bangladesh in
adopting and cultivating GM crops, the initiative to develop a National
Biosafety Framework was taken up under joint funding of the Global
Environmental Fund (GEF) and the government of Bangladesh.

Experts attending yesterday's meeting told The Daily Star that
finalisation of the NBF will take care of all the issues concerning
updating the quarantine law, biodiversity loss, biohazard risk management
and food safety.

Besides, it will allow Bangladesh to have all its biosafety regulatory
set-ups ready including a 'Biosafety Clearing House' (BCH) for ensuring
safe trans-boundary movement of GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Meanwhile, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSPII), funded
by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is
already rendering support to Bangladesh in its pursuit of biotechnology.
Cornell University of the USA is managing the project.

The ABSPII, implemented by a consortium of public and private sector
institutions, focuses on safe and effective development and
commercialisation of GM crops as a complement to traditional and organic
agriculture in developing countries. The project will help boost food
security, economic growth, nutrition and environmental quality in East
and West Africa and in Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

A handful of countries including the United States, Brazil, Argentina and
China are now vigorously pursuing GM crops while a large part of Europe
remains skeptic about the new technology fearing long-term side effects.


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