Law to regulate GMO products on the cards

30 Jan 2015 12:40pm
WINDHOEK, 30 JAN (NAMPA) – A new law to control Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) products will come into effect in the next six months.
The National Commission on Research, Science and Technology (NCRST) Manager for Biotechnology, Vincent Nowaseb told Nampa on Thursday that the Biosafety Act No. 7, 2006 is expected to come into force on 01 July 2015.
The objective of the Act is to introduce a system and procedures for the regulation of GMOs in Namibia in order to provide an adequate level of protection to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.
GMOs can be defined as organisms such as plants, animals or micro-organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.
The technology is often called 'modern biotechnology or 'gene technology. Its is also referred to as 'recombinant DNA technology' or 'genetic engineering'.
It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism to another, and also between non-related species.
The Namibian Organic Association (NOA) however said it was opposed to genetic engineering in agriculture, in view of the extraordinary danger it represents for the entire biosphere and the economy at large.
GMO products are not properly tested for human safety before they are released for sale, says NAO chairperson, Manjo Krige-Smith.
The Namibia Consumer Trust (NCT) has since 2012 warned consumers about GMOs in Top Score maize meal. If the label does not mention the exact percentage or the existence of GMO in such maize, consumers are denied their right to choose, to be informed and perhaps their right to redress as well, according to NCT Executive Director Michael Gaweseb.
The NCT sent samples of three maize-based products for testing to a lab at the University of the Free State in South Africa in early 2013, and again later that same year.
The tests revealed that Top Score maize meal contains over one per cent genetically-modified maize.
However, Namib Mills Trade Liaison Specialist Koos Ferreira told Nampa on Thursday that currently, there is no Act in Namibia stipulating any disclosure of possible GMO content of products on packing material.
“Our obligations to the consumers are to provide them with a quality product at an affordable price. In fact, Namib Mills and some other millers are also voluntary fortifying (vitamin enriching) maize and wheaten products.
'The industry thus awaits the details required to be printed on packing material. It is a very costly exercise to reprint all packing material. Once the details to be disclosed on packing material are available, it will be implemented accordingly,” said Ferreira.
Namibians consume around 120 000 tonnes of maize annually and if short in supply, is imported from South Africa and Zambia.
Since 1982, Namib Mills has played a major role in the development of the country’s milling industry.
'Top Score maize meal is a champion locally-milled brand, the benchmark for quality in the maize meal category,” reads the marketing logo on a Top Score package.