Alliance slams GMOs in Africa

gm-cropsThe Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (FSG) has expressed alarm about the draft policy statements and guidelines for commercial planting of genetically modified foods.

The Council of Ministers of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) arrived at the decision last month.

A statement issued by Mr Ali-Masmadi Jehu-Appiah, Chairperson of FSG and copied to Ghana News Agency in Accra said the COMESA Policy aggressively promotes the wholesale proliferation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on the African continent by way of commercial plantings, commodity imports and food aid, which flouts international biosafety law.

“We are outraged that the COMESA Policy supports the undermining and displacing of more than a decade’s worth of international, regional and national biosafety policies and legislation.

“It intends to do this by usurping… the biosafety policy space of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, regional policies on food aid and the sovereign rights of COMESA member states,” the statement said.

FSG said all COMESA member states have ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and “almost all COMESA member states have developed their own National Biosafety Frameworks”.

“It is our view that this policy has been crafted to suit the agenda of vested interests. The COMESA policy did not emanate from the national regulatory authorities responsible for biosafety in the COMESA countries.”

The statement said it is the brainchild of the Regional Approach to Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy in Eastern and Southern Africa, a US funded initiative that seeks to transform biosafety into a free trade agenda.

“Clear evidence of this is that the regional meeting held to review the Draft Policy in Nairobi in June 2010, failed to reach consensus due to an inadequate representation of regulatory authorities and therefore a need for The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa,” it said.

“One of our deepest concerns with the COMESA Policy is that it undermines national sovereignty and compels national regulators to rely on the opinion of the COMESA Panel of Experts with regard to GMO decision-making.

“One of the objectives of the Policy is to provide COMESA Member States with a mechanism for scientific regional risk assessment of GMOs intended for commercial planting, trade and food aid in the COMESA region.

“The policy does not set out procedures for conducting risk assessments, opening the possibility for risk assessment to happen behind closed doors, “the statement said.

According to FSG the policy lacks transparency and clarity in risk assessment and decision making procedures and is geared toward removing trade barriers rather than protecting human and environmental health.

It said the objectives imply that regional assessments would be made for commercial planting of GM crops in all COMESA countries.

The statement said this is completely unworkable and unscientific. It added civil society and small scale farmers have been left out of the process.

“We call upon the Member States of COMESA to scrap the Policy in its entirety and leave biosafety regulation and decision making, within the domain of the sovereignty of each Member State,” the statement said.

Source: GNA

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