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Sound legislation to regulate technologies needed to ensure biosafety - Dr. Mufandaedza

by Maxwell Teedzai
22 Jul 2017 at 19:42hrs | Views
The golden question to be answered is, 'What is the purpose of having a biosafety and biosecurity regulatory framework in Zimbabwe?'.

"A sound legislation to regulate technologies to ensure their safe and responsible use in humans, animals and environment is needed", said Dr. Jonathan Mufandaedza the CEO and Registrar of Zimbabawe's National Biotechnology Authority (NBA) while presenting his powerpoint communiqué entitled, 'Role of Biosafety New & Emerging Technologies Era' at an Open Forum on Agriculture Biotechnology in Africa workshop convened recently at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) under the theme, 'A Food Secure Africa Where Agriculture Biotechnology is Making Significant Contributions.

To promote effective Regulatory mechanisms, MOUs, Dr. Mufandaedza alluded had been developed with various stakeholders, chief among them being, Radiation Protection Authority of Zimbabwe (RPAZ), Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation & Irrigation Development, Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ), Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe (MRCZ), Research Council of Zimbabwe and many other regulatory bodies.

NBA is a statutory body whose function is to support and manage biological and molecular engineering technologies and other new and emerging technologies that may be potentially harmful.

Vital regulatory services being rendered by NBA include; processing applications for import /export permits, supervision of imports and exports, registration of biotechnology facilities, biosafety policy development, supervision of the contained use, trial and general release of biotechnology products and GMO surveillance. "It's actually extremely difficult to predict the consequences of new and emerging technologies, on biodiversity and ecosystems", added Dr Mufandaedza.

Long term monitoring of GMOs in the field, he further added were quintessential to ensure biosafety including, knowledge about invasive species, knowledge about spread of microorganisms in the wild (epidemiology), knowledge and expertly developed models which take into account benefits and risks.

Dr Mufandaedza agreed that regulations could be enforced but said he was wary of the plethora of challenges regulators were facing in the fulfillment of their mandate.

The NBA Registrar made outstanding recommendations which included; the introduction of modernized policies and regulatory frameworks for these technologies, the re-examination of the appropriateness of the precautionary principle, so that it does not hinders innovation, the incorporation of new and emerging technologies into curricula, capacity building of regulatory institutions, and public education and awareness of new & emerging technologies.

The relentless efforts made so far by NBA under Dr. Mufandaedza's administration continue to spared the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare of billions of dollars which could be losing had his authority not taken stern measures to control GMO and substandard foodstuffs infiltrating our local market, since these foodstuffs bring along with them health hazards to those who consume them.

Biotechnology is the integration of the new techniques emerging from modern biotechnology with the well-established approaches of traditional biotechnology. It is a set of enabling techniques for bringing about specific human-made changes in DNA, or genetic material, in plants, animals and microbial systems, leading to useful products and technologies. Biotechnology promises to make a significant contribution in enabling the development of, for example, better health care, enhanced food security, improved supplies of potable water, more efficient industrial development processes for transforming raw materials, support for sustainable methods of afforestation and reforestation, and detoxification of hazardous wastes. It offers new opportunities for global partnerships.

By 2030, the world's population is expected to grow to 8.1 billion at a rate of over 75 million people per year. Almost all of the population increases will occur in developing countries (FAO 2000) that can ill-afford additional population pressures. Based on a population-increase-only projection with per capita consumption remaining constant, world cereal production must rise from approximately 1.92 billion tons in 1990 to 2.88 billion in 2030 to match the demand. Although the number of undernourished people in developing countries is expected to decrease; the global food-system situation will continue to be unacceptable.

However, even if we resolve the issue of distribution in the short run, the future growth in food demand will require increases in productivity from a decreasing stock of arable land. The challenge, therefore, is not only to feed more people, but to do so with less available arable land, fewer non-renewable resources, less water, and fewer people engaged in primary agriculture.

At the 27th Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government (Kigali, Rwanda, 2016) Decision No. (Assembly/AU/Dec.618 (XXVII par 19), endorsed the use of emerging technologies for economic development and environmental sustainability.

Furthermore the second Science and Technology Policy of 2012 in the Constitution of Zimbabwe states that; Government is entitled to facilitate rapid and equitable development, and take measures to foster agricultural, commercial, industrial, technological & scientific development; while Zimbabwe Agenda for Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset), cluster number 4 promotes value addition and beneficiation of raw materials.

Source - Maxwell Teedzai