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Tanzania: Government asked to maintain restrictions on biotechnologyqrcode

May. 23, 2011

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May. 23, 2011

Tanzania has the best biotechnology regulator regimes in Eastern and Southern Africa region which should not be weakened under the whims of multinational corporations with commercial interests. Regional Chairman Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers' Forum (ESAFF), Mr Moses Shaha said relaxing regulations governing GMOs in the country is counter productive because of commercial interests of biotech companies as well as unknown health and environmental hazards. "Tanzania has strict biotechnology regulations which all of us are proud of and which should not be weakened," Mr Shaha who is a farmer from Mombasa in Kenya told 'Daily News' after a meeting of experts, activists and bureaucrats debating a future biotechnology regulator regime aimed at easing restrictions.

Mr Shaha said allowing relaxation of the strict regime against Western developed genetically engineered organisms sugar coated with donor money, is detrimental to the future of the country's food security and sovereignty.

"Big multinational companies are paying our scientists very well and imposing their agenda on what we should grow and eat," the Kenyan farmer argued warning that GMOs will destroy the country's traditional seeds, harm the environment and consumers' health gradually.

Tanzania which is the only country in East Africa to retain a strict regime against Frankenstein cultivation and consumption, is currently reviewing legislation to allow field trials with support from United States Agency for International Development.

A cream of top seed scientists have been recruited to push for the easing of restrictions and allow trials through applied research even though President Jakaya Kikwete's government has pledged to allocate one per cent of annual budget to research.

This fiscal year, government has allocated 30bn/- for research under Commission for Science and Technology but only 4bn/- has been utilized by local researchers to conduct basic research on areas such as hybrid seeds, agro-processing technology and equipment.

ESAFF is an umbrella organization of activists opposed to GMOs. In a joint statement released on Tuesday, the alliance said legislators are under extreme pressure from the GM biotechnology industry and stakeholders to relax the regulations, abandon the precautionary principle, and reduce the liability of seed companies in case of harm to people, loss to farmers, or damage to the environment.

"Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity members believe that Biosafety regulations should be based on the precautionary principle and are convinced that introduction of GM crops or animals is not the right solution to fight poverty and hunger," the statement read in part.

Haunted by regular food shortages blamed on droughts, poor technology and farmers' lack of knowledge on crop husbandry practices and loans, pro-GMO scientists argue that Frankenstein crops are a solution to food insecurity problems.

ActionAid Tanzania's Country Director, Aida Kiangi, said, "We are one of many NGOs who have seen the fallout from this technology on small farmers and their families in other countries, and I urge my fellow Tanzanians to beware of the serious risks before it is too late."

The Alliance cites evidence from the World Agriculture Report (IAASTD[i]) 2009. Developed by 400 scientists and endorsed by 61 governments including Tanzania which calls on governments and international agencies to redirect and increase their funding towards a revolution in agriculture that is firmly agro-ecological.

The report raises serious concerns about GM biotechnology's impact on smallholders, biodiversity, deforestation, insecticide use and intellectual property rights (IPRs).

The Alliance's other members are organic exporters and non-governmental organizations including African Centre for Biodiversity, ActionAid Tanzania, Biolands, BioRe, BioSustain, CVM/APA (Comunità Volontari per il Mondo / AIDS Partnership with Africa), Eastern & Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), Envirocare, PELUM Tanzania, Swissaid, and Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement and Tancert.

The Alliance joins similar movements in South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, and Uganda, to resist the Africa-wide pressure from the US-driven biotech industry.

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