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Rwanda insists on Biosafety rather than putting ban on Use of Biotechnology

Unrecognizable chemist taking a test tube in a laboratory.

Up to now Rwanda has no ban on the use of Biotechnology or Genetically Modified varieties amid of the “unfounded” concerns of the effects that may arise from its application especially for food safety, TOPAFRICANEWS reports.

Issues of GMOs and Biotechnology in general have raised mixed reactions among many people around the world and there is a resistance whereby many believe that they are harmful but without grounds, Experts say.

In Rwanda, the policy on Biosafety which is under review and waiting to be sent to the cabinet stipulates that Biotechnology is to be used in safe way.

Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) as a designated Competent  National Authority, in Rwanda can’t ban the use of Biotechnology rather the priority is to put in place Biosafety measures.

Emmanuel Kabera, the Biosafety Focal person at Rwanda Environment Management Authority says that despite not yet having the law and policy on Biosafety, there are other legal and administrative mechanisms in place”.

 “Today we have tools and guidelines as far as the environmental conservation is concerned.” He says.

“Biosafety came to address the concerns and adverse effects that can be born from the use of Biotechnology” He added.

Mr. Kabera said “For instance no one should import the GMOs in the country without valid permit.”

However, the environmental body clarifies that “lack of the specific law and approved policy on the use of biotechnology are still major challenges in dealing with the current applications.”

“Rwanda doesn’t have a law and a policy governing the use of Biotechnology; however we are on an advanced stage to have both the law and the policy in place.” He said.

He revealed that the policy was validated by stakeholders and it is waiting to be sent in the cabinet for the further consideration.

Kabera calls for the mainstreaming of Biosafety regulatory system in public and private institutions adding that the Law under process will take into consideration the integrity of natural biological diversity. The guiding principle is the precautionary approach.

Despite lack of scientific proof that the use of Biotechnology has serious risks on human and environment, scientists say that many people are still basing on ideological speculations on GMOs rather than basing on scientific findings.

However, Mr Sunday Akile, the Programme Officer for Legal and Policy on Biosafety Issues at the African Biosafety Network of Expertise demonstrated that the global trends in Biological diversity is that the world is looking how human can live with nature in a sustainable way.

He noted that the convention on Biological Diversity was adopted in 1992 and has currently over 196 signatory parties among which Rwanda is included.

Mr. Sunday says the main objectives of the convention are to know how do we conserve the Biodiversity, how do we sustainably use it and how fair do we share the benefits of using Genetic resources.

“We should be aware that whenever we have an activity with the environment, we also need to have precautions” he says.

“Recognizing that biotechnology is an important tool for biodiversity.” He added.

Experts say Africa needs to use Biotechnology to be able to feed over billion people in need of food.

Commenting on the people’s concerns on Biotechnology and GMOs, Mr. Moussa Sawadogo, an Environmental Biosafety Expert at NEPAD noted that many people have raised concerns about GMOs; however they have failed to scientifically prove dangers that they are afraid of.

“One says GMO crops pose danger to human and animals as well as to the Environment! In reality what dangers are they saying here?”

 Mr. Moussa Sawadogo reminds that “Today there is a need to use technologies in Laboratory to be capable to feed over one billion people in Africa.”

The inability to produce adequate food forces Africa to rely on food aid from industrialized nations when mass starvation occurs.

In Africa, biotechnology tools used in agriculture include tissue culture, molecular characterization, marker assisted selection, molecular diagnostics and genetic modification (GM).

Currently tissue culture is applied in many countries for rapid multiplication of planting materials for vegetatively propagated crops such as coffee, banana, pineapple and root crops.

However, few countries have adopted GM for crop production improvement, and for agricultural research and development.

Scientists argue that Genetic engineering technology can help in many ways, including developing crop varieties that are resistant to diseases, drought, predators or pests, a move that they say is primed to revolutionize food production in Africa and save its people from acute food shortage.

By : Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU

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