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POLICY & REGULATION: Public awareness and participation forum on Swaziland’s biosafety law



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   GOOD TIDINGS ON MODERN BIO-TECHNOLOGY

SOURCE:  The Swazi Observer, Swaziland

AUTHOR:  Ackel Zwane

URL:     http://www.observer.org.sz/index.php?news=20502

DATE:    29.01.2011

SUMMARY: "Recent developments on biotechnology in Swaziland this week by the Swaziland Environmental Authority come at a time when already there is concern that the country also wants to improve production by the use of modern technology. [...] The general public yearns for information regarding the bio safety laws. The Public Awareness and Public Participation forum is the only vehicle to this end."

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GOOD TIDINGS ON MODERN BIO-TECHNOLOGY

Recent developments on biotechnology in Swaziland this week by the Swaziland Environmental Authority come at a time when already there is concern that the country also wants to improve production by the use of modern technology.

It has been about six months since it was announced that parliament was debating the National Bio-safety Bill and also taking steps towards the domestication of the Cartagena Protocol, especially Article 23.

Bio technology remains remote in Swaziland and Dr Cebsile Magagula told a workshop of journalists towards the end of last year that this becomes visible in such areas as the fermentation of the popular sorghum traditional brew of umcombotsi.

There are other African countries where the production of this beer is by way of modern technology such as Zimbabwe with its Chibuku national drink. Swazis have been gradually ?ignoring? the Swaziland Brewers product of Imvelo and production has since ceased.

More information must still be made available on the production of animal feed by means of modern technology. Delta Corporation, the producers of Chibuku in Zimbabwe, says Chibuku was first brewed in that country in 1962. Chibuku, a market leader in the sorghum beer category is a traditional sorghum opaque beer brewed with the finest maize and sorghum locally grown in Zimbabwe.

Quality

The highly developed brewing process ensures product consistency and quality. Over the years, great strides have been made in technology. Automated brewing and packaging equipment has brought about dramatic improvements in productivity and efficiencies. Chibuku is now brewed across 14 Delta Beverages breweries spread throughout Zimbabwe.

In Swaziland the major issues on bio-technology revolve around genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Handling these has required a lot of caution and the law seeks to provide the necessary protection in transfer and handling of same.

Most Swazis are not well informed about GMOs, less for the stories about the dangers associated with it such as dependence on fewer plant species for food. The country does not have laboratories to take genes from one specie to the other for purposes of experimentation and study but it is hoped with the biotechnology park initiated by the King this will finally become possible.

The debate on GMOs has been ?polemised? by advocates of organic farmers and those from the school of inorganic farmers. One of the most important benefits of GMOs is their potential for adding to the healthiness and natural resistances of organisms. GMOs can potentially be created that have greater resistance to insect infestation and plant diseases.

For instance, a certain strain of corn might produce a large amount of food tonnage, but be susceptible to insects, while another might repel the insects but produce a low amount of raw food tonnage.

Combined

If the insect resistance of the lower yield plant were combined with the higher yield plant, a new GMO could be made that provides a large amount of food and resistance to insects. Another benefit of increased plant resistance is that it has the potential to reduce the amount of chemicals used on plants to protect against insects and disease, which can reduce pollution introduces to the environment (eHow).

But others would rather have nothing to do with GMOs, especially because of the ?dangers? associated with it. This is despite growing beliefs in Africa that food security may not be achieved without having to make use of bio-technology such as the GMOs. The fear of loss of biodiversity and claims about the death of monarch butterflies after being exposed to GMO pollen are some of the strong arguments. There are also other environment fears such as the use of pesticides associated with GMOs.

Says eHow: Genetically modified organisms come with a number of risks to society and the economy.

In addition to inhibiting evolution, a loss of biodiversity means that if crop failures happen they will be far more widespread.

Proprietary

Further, the patenting of seeds makes these seeds proprietary, raising the specter of a world where poor farmers and farmers in the developing world cannot afford GMO seeds, leading to a further increase in social inequality.

Companies can also genetically modify plants so that all seeds produced by a crop are sterile.

Farmers hosted to a field visit to Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini?s farm at kuKhanyeni introduced to a maize variety appeared more concerned about the loss of biodiversity in that they had heard ?from the grapevine? that the variety killed other plants that otherwise grew alongside maize.

The general public yearns for information regarding the bio safety laws. The Public Awareness and Public Participation forum is the only vehicle to this end.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   COMESA BIOSAFETY POLICIES AND GUIDELINES ARE RELEVANT TO SWAZILAND

SOURCE:  International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA)

AUTHOR:  Crop Biotech Update

URL:     http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/online/default.asp?Date=2/4/2011#7299

DATE:    04.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Minister Robert Thwala, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture [...] noted the relevance to Swaziland of all the three issues addressed in the draft COMESA biosafety guidelines namely: commercial planting of GMOs, trade in GMOs, and access to emergency food assistance with GM content, and, the urgency for their adoption as quickly as possible without compromising biosafety."

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COMESA BIOSAFETY POLICIES AND GUIDELINES ARE RELEVANT TO SWAZILAND

The Swaziland national consultative workshop on the COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) regional biosafety policies and guidelines was held on January 27, 2011 in Manzini, Swaziland. In his opening speech, the Swazi Minister for Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Hon. Mcford Sibandze announced that the Swaziland National Biosafety Bill has passed through the cabinet and is now being debated by Parliament.

?It is our hope that this bill will be turned into law during this financial year when all consultations have been exhausted - therefore, we have to be ready with all ammunitions available in order to address our food security challenges,? said Minister Robert Thwala, Principal Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Agriculture. He noted the relevance to Swaziland of all the three issues addressed in the draft COMESA biosafety guidelines namely: commercial planting of GMOs, trade in GMOs, and access to emergency food assistance with GM content, and, the urgency for their adoption as quickly as possible without compromising biosafety.

The PS was explicit in the potential uses of the GM technology to address the food security challenges of Swaziland and the next steps for its safe application. ?Given the standing applications to the competent authority to conduct trials on GM crops relevant to Swaziland, and the enactment of the biosafety bill soon, the country needs capacity building assistance in risk assessment in order to make the right decisions,? the PS urged.

COMESA is a regional economic bloc composed of 19 Member States.