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6-Regulation: Malawi's Government reviews draft biotechnology policy



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TITLE:  Government reviews draft biotechnology policy
SOURCE: Nation Online, Malawi, by Frank Phiri
        http://www.nationmalawi.com/articles.asp?articleID=15802
DATE:   22 'Mar 2006

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Government reviews draft biotechnology policy


Top government officials are expected to meet in Lilongwe Wednesday to
discuss the final draft of Malawi's Biotechnology Policy which will
regulate the country's biotechnology industry, a senior scientist
confirmed Tuesday.

Alick Manda, Chief Scientist at the National Research Council of Malawi
(NRCM), said the meeting has attracted Principal Secretaries from line
ministries of Science and Industry, Agriculture, Trade and Private Sector
Development and Environmental Affairs.

He said the meeting follows submission of a third draft from three
consultants who have been drawing the policy with funding from government
and international agencies.

"Among other things, the meeting will set a date for a national
stakeholders' meeting later in April to solicit wider input," Manda said.

He said the National Biotechnology Policy would act as a regulatory
framework for the biotech industry by covering crosscutting issues such
as science, agriculture, trade, safety, environment and human health.

Last year, NRCM which chairs the steering committee of the policy
formulation process, said the document would either amend the 2002
Biosafety Act or repeal it altogether depending on stakeholders' views.

But experts say the 2002 Act is weak on safety enforcement for
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) as it does not offer judicious
safeguards in its provisions.

They attribute the weaknesses to the hurried process of coming up with
the law, which they say was for convenient entry of GMO food aid at the
height of a food crisis that hit Southern Africa, including Malawi.

Biotechnology is a technique that involves manipulation of living
organisms to alter their original formation.

Its architects say it holds the future to a hungry-free generation in a
drought-prone continent through propagation of fast-maturing and pest
resistant crop varieties. In the region South Africa is the largest
producer of GM crops.


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