Groups proffer model laws for national biosafety legislation

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- A number of organizations have created model laws to assist countries considering national biosafety legislation to comply with the Cartagena Protocol, says a Consumers International report.
While these are not legally binding, they serve as good examples that countries could consider when drafting legislation, said the CI report sent to PANA Wednesday.
The African Model Law on Safety in Biotechnology recognizes that while biotechnology may hold some promises for the improvement of human well being, it equally has potential adverse effects on the environment, biological diversity and human health.
It thus recognizes the precautionary principle as a means of regulating any undertaking for the import, contained use, release or placing on the market of genetically modified organisms and products of genetically modified organisms.
The model law adopts many of the provisions of the Cartagena Protocol, but in many cases goes even further, the report noted.
Many countries in Africa are progressing to establish effective biosafety regulations, a difficult task, as most African countries do not have the needed resources for effective regulation.
A few years back, Monsanto field-tested its GM cotton in Zimbabwe before national regulations were in place and without notifying the authorities.
When the government discovered this, the crops were quickly destroyed.
But do governments always have the capacity to ensure safety? According to a member of Zimbabwe's Biosafety Board, one Monsanto application for a Bt crop was more than 1,000 pages long.
The situation leaves African biosafety vulnerable to a range of interested parties.
There are many cases of GM crops being planted or sold without authorization that have been discovered around the world.
Star Link corn, a genetically engineered variety unapproved for human consumption, was found in hundreds of products on supermarket shelves in the U.
and in corn shipments to countries around the world.
Recently, illegal GM rice was growing in Southern China, while illegally grown GM papaya trees were discovered in Thailand, and in India GM food entered the market in 2001.
Food aid from the US has found its way in African countries and some countries have faced serious challenges because of the absence of laws and regulations.
It is against this background that Consumers International-ROAF convened a four-day capacity building workshop in Accra, Ghana from 15 to 18 October 2005.
Participants have been drawn from the membership of Consumers International, both consumer organizations and government bodies, from the following countries: Benin, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The workshop enabled participants to develop a clear understanding of the difference between biotechnology and genetic engineering and their potential in assuring food security and obtain a comprehensive view and analysis of the various pertinent legislations and laws on biotechnology and biosafety.
They also learned to identify the critical elements of any legislation on biosafety and biotechnology aimed at protecting human safety, sustainable environment and food security, as well as how to be in a position to enter in credible debate in policy dialogue on formulation and enactment of a regulatory framework for biotechnology and biosafety at national, regional and global level.

07 ديسمبر 2005 11:33:00

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