FAO chief cautions on GMOs in Africa

Sirte- Libya (PANA) -- UN food agency, FAO, Director General Jacques Diouf, said here Sunday the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Africa's agricultural sector was "not the priority" for achieving the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
According to him, the priority is water and rural infrastructure as decided by African leaders at their 2003 Summit in Maputo, Mozambique, and reinforced by the convening of an extraordinary summit in February 2004 in Sirte Libya on water and agriculture.
   "The challenge now is how do we (international partners) assist Africa to translate these policies into action," the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation boss told PANA on the sidelines of the 7th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council (EC) of the African Union (AU) here.
The EC, comprising foreign ministers from AU member States, is preparing grounds for the two-day 5th Ordinary Summit of AU leaders, opening here Monday.
Seeds production, an item proposed by host Libya, including the GMOs variation, is being discussed by the EC ahead of the AU summit.
Diouf also cited the Blair Commission for Africa report that indicated the need to invest two billion US dollars a year in small scale water harvesting, irrigation and drainage systems to double the area under irrigation from the current four percent to eight percent to increase agricultural production on the continent.
According to him, the Blair commission report also stressed the need for 10 billion-dollar investment between now and 2010 and 15 billion dollars between 2010 and 2015 in infrastructure to spur economic activities that will ensure competitive conditions and the movement of goods and services.
"These are the priorities," the FAO boss said.
"Naturally, we need seeds, but even then, there are seeds that are free and developed by international and national research centres which are not used.
not even 2 to 5 percent of those free seeds are used.
Therefore, let us first use them before we go to the GMOs.
" In any case, Diouf said "a joint FAO-WHO body was working on what international rule to follow on the use of GMOs," adding: "we wait on the result of this international exercise to decide who is right and who is wrong" in the GMO debate.
He further suggested that African scientists be trained in the interim on the relevant new technologies to enable them understand the subject "so when the time comes they can work on GMO issues based on proper training.
" "We do not think that rushing for something because it is fanciful, but costly.
," emphasised the FAO official.
"Naturally, we have to rely on science as a factor for human progress and we cannot exclude the possibility of using this technology if it is the right one, particularly with Africa overusing the land, deforestation and population growth expected to reach two billion persons," Diouf said, adding: ".
let us go about it in a very reasonable, rational and measured way.

03 july 2005 18:51:00

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