Zvamaida Murwira and Talent Hwari
Government has drafted Genetically Modified food and feeds labelling regulations that would allow consumers to make informed choices on products offered either for free or cash, a senior official has said.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Deputy Minister Dr Godfrey Gandawa said the regulations have since been submitted to the Attorney General’s Office before they could be enforced.
Dr Gandawa said this in Harare yesterday when he commissioned a GMO testing laboratory that was constructed by the National Biotechnology Authority.
The event also saw the launch of a bio-master, an electronic permit issuing system. “The purpose of these regulations are to provide guidelines for labelling of food and feed, facilitate mechanisms for the protection of human and animal health and environment from unintended effects of GM foods and feeds, and facilitate the traceability of genetically modified products which will assist in the implementation of appropriate risk management measures where necessary,” said Dr Gandawa.
He said science and technology was ever advancing as it could enable development in new valuable biotechnology products that were not previously possible.
“As I speak, there are projects focusing on elimination of malaria using GMO mosquitoes, elimination of HIV using GMO HIV vaccines and replacing of chemical fertilisers with biofertiliser,” said Dr Gandawa.
He said while benefits were welcome, risks had to be ascertained, minimised or eliminated if possible. “This can only be possible if regulators such as NBA have requisite scientific capabilities, tools and expertise at their disposal to support oversight of technology transfer of applications such as biotechnology and product,” said Dr Gandawa.
Dr Gandawa said the new laboratory would not only benefit NBA, but other institutions, academia and industries. “As a science facility, this laboratory will also drive STEM initiative forward,” said Dr Gandawa. “It is expected that this laboratory will increase the regulatory capacity of the NBA by about 10 percent and that will contribute the development of the National Biosafety framework.”
Speaking at the same occasion, interim NBA chairperson, Dr Obadiah Moyo, said his organisation, as a Government agency, was fulfilling its obligations under the Cartagena Prtocol on Biosafety.
“Today’s event signifies our continued commitment as a Government towards fulfilling our national biosafety obligations, hence today we shall witness the official opening of our GMO testing laboratory which will assist the authority to analyse products from our industrial, agricultural, environmental and research and development sectors of our economy,” said Dr Moyo.
The event was attended by a member of Parliament’s Higher and Tertiary Education portfolio committee and Chipinge Central legislator Cde Raymore Machingura (Zanu-PF), NBA chief executive officer, Dr Jonathan Mufandaedza and senior Government officials.