GENTECH archive 8.96-97
GE grows in South AFrica (commentary)
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- Subject: GE grows in South AFrica (commentary)
- From: firstname.lastname@example.org (William Hite)
- Date: Tue, 10 Dec 96 10:10 GMT0
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Johannesburg (Mail and Guardian, December 6, 1996) - Interest in South
Africa as a testing ground for genetically modified organisms is
increasing. This interest is shown mainly by multinationals such as
Calgene, Pannar, Monsanto and Hoescht.
But South Africa has no regulations to control modern biotechnology
- the craft of creating artificial organisms - despite the threat it
could pose to human health and the environment.
Voluntary guidelines are administered by the South African Committee
for Genetic Experimentation, a government advisory body, and a Bill to
establish a regulatory system is making its way through Parliament.
But there is a prevailing perception that the Bill is lopsided and
cumbersome, and does not adequately address the country's inability to
manage potential risks to the environment.
The local biotechnology industry is about three decades old, but the
issue of regulating it has only recently entered the public domain. In
October, the department of Tourism and Environmental Affairs released
the Green Paper on Biodiversity, which pointed out the potential
threats of this modern science.
What separates biotechnology from other scientific endeavours is
that it can fundamentally transform living organisms. These can
interact with other organisms, changing them and sometimes causing
them to become extinct. The threat is similar to that of invasive
South Africa is not a signatory to the International Convention of
Biodiversity, which aims to protect the world's biological resources.
The countries that have signed agree that an international protocol on
biosafety is needed to ensure the safe handling and transfer of
genetically modified organisms between countries.
This move is regarded as a victory for developing countries, which
fear that they could become the dumping grounds of genetic
experimentation by the developed countries.
The Department of Tourism and Environmental Affairs held a workshop
in October to discuss the South African position on the proposed
international protocol. But there is still a general reluctance within
the local industry to engage in this debate, and to large extent the
industry is opposed to an international protocol.
Saliem Fakir is co-ordinator of a natural- resource management
programme at the Land and Agriculture Policy Centre (LAPC) in
by Saliem Fakir
Copyright 1996 Mail and Guardian. Distributed via Africa News
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