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26.08.2005 General News

Bio-Safety Bill needs broader participation


Accra, Aug. 26, GNA - Mr Gregory Jaffe, Director of Biotechnology Project at the Centre for Science in Public Interest, in the United States, on Thursday, called for public participation in the debate on the Bio-Safety Bill before its passage.

He said with the current international debate over Genetically Modified Organisms, the public should be given the opportunity to provide information that should inform the decision-maker. Speaking at a day's stakeholders consultation meeting on the development of the draft regulations to the Bio-Safety Bill, Mr Jaffe commended Ghana for coming out with a comprehensive Bill but added that it could be enhanced if few additions were made.

He mentioned areas like food safety, safety standards and socio-economic considerations in addition to the public participation. He said those areas would assure the public that their concerns were seriously considered in the regulations.

The bill seeks to regulate biotechnology and bio safety matters and provide for its related matters and it is currently with the Ministry of Environment and Science for study to be forwarded to Cabinet for approval.

It deals with objectives, establishment of the national bio-safety authority, functions of the authority, governing body, confidential information, risk assessment and its management, offences and penalties among other things.

Mr Jaffe noted that the Cartegena Protocol of May 2003 acknowledged the importance of public participation bio-safety issues.

Dr Kwabena M. Bosompem, a member of the Bio-Safety Co-ordinating Committee, said bio-safety guidelines were in three parts and were meant to regulate all biotechnological work to minimise and eliminate potential hazards.

The guidelines also address laboratory and framework, movement of regulated materials and commercial releases within or between institutions.

Dr Bosompem said potential hazards like ecological and genetic relationships changes, allergy, toxicity; nutritional composition of food, indirect effects and socio-economic issues would be dealt with by the guidelines.

He said the guidelines would also cover procedures that had to be followed for approval and execution of work to promote good practices in the use of modern biotechnology for innovative applications. Mr Alex Owusu-Biney, National Bio-Safety project Coordinator, said there were breakthroughs in the use of biotechnology in medicine, agriculture, industry and the environment.