Regulations of GMOs a step closer

06 Jun 2016 12:10pm
WINDHOEK, 06 JUN (NAMPA) – The Agro Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA) and the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology (NCRST) on Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in support of research on genetically modified organisms (GMO)’s and enabling the regulation of such foodstuffs in Namibia.
The NCRST is mandated with the administration of the Biosafety Act, 2006, which aims to introduce a system for the regulation of GMO’s
in Namibia, while AMTA is mandated to coordinate and manage the marketing and trading of agricultural produce in Namibia.
Speaking at the event, NCRST Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Eino Mvula noted that both institutions thought it fit to forge a strategic partnership to enable the regulation of GMOs in order to deliver to their mandate.
“’For these reasons, we have also agreed to share laboratory facilities and resources for the testing and researching of GMOs and maximum residue level analysis of agronomic and horticultural products, and agree to share resources in inspectorate services.”
The need to increase agricultural productivity remains a central concern for Namibia because it is a major factor determining the level of income of the agricultural sector in meeting food security and generating foreign exchange to finance domestic programmes.
Recent economic indicators show that the contribution of agriculture to the gross domestic product (GDP) has dropped over the years and currently stands at 3.2 per cent of GDP. This is a cause of concern, considering that the sector underpins the livelihood of 70 per cent of the Namibian population, according to Muvla.
At the same occasion, AMTA Managing Director Lungameni Lucas noted that research, science, and technology in Namibia is critical in areas of market intelligence, or research for the agricultural products as well in implementing food safety and standards in Namibia.
“Therefore, the MOU commits us to work together more closely towards our common goal in relation to: support for agricultural research projects for potential technology development; innovation and value addition; facilitate joint workshops and seminars; sharing laboratory facilities and resources for testing and research of GMOs; as well as capacity building in agricultural research and biotechnology,” said Lucas.
GMO’s in terms of agriculture are plants that’s genetic structure has been altered in a laboratory by being injected with certain genes of a high yield and resistance to certain external factors that could kill the pant or reduce the yield of a crop. Various research projects on the international scale have found that the use of the pesticide resistant plants allows the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture and produce what is known as “super weeds” and “super bugs” that could only be killed with toxic chemicals.
Some organic associations argue there has been very little research on the effect of GMO’s on human health and the ecosystem, while large international corporations demand royalties from farmers using their GMO seeds and prosecute heavily when infringed of copyright.
With all that controversy, another question remaining unanswered is whether it is important for consumers to know if what they buy contains GMO’s. Various countries have banned the cultivation of GMO’s but allow the import of products containing them while other have outright banned GMO’s alltogether.
As part of the MOU, a joint steering committee will be appointed from both institutions in due course.
Namibian companies are not yet compelled by law to label GMOs or give any description of the organisms contained in their products. The commencement of the Biosafety Act is still pending due to the finalisation of regulations to the Act.