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18.10.2005 Business & Finance

Scientists raise alarm on Burkina Faso GM-Cotton

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Accra, Oct. 18, GNA - Genetic scientists have predicted dire consequences for consumers and farmers if Monsante, a multinational company succeeds in launching its recent produced Genetically Modified (GM) cotton in Burkina Faso this week.

The GM cotton called Bollgand II is said to be an improvement on the Bollgand I that was supposed to increase the toxins level in the soil to make cottonseeds more resistant to pests and diseases. They said its introduction would invariably result in the contamination of neighbouring countries' fields and food and impact on consumer's rights to choose between GM and GM-Free food as well as on farmers' ability to export their product to the developed nations' markets.

The experts announced this to close a four-day Regional Capacity Building Workshop on Food Security and Biotechnology in Africa on Tuesday in Accra, under the theme: "The Need for An Effective legislative Framework."

The experts, constituting members of Consumer International Regional Office for Africa (ROAF) from 20 African countries said discussions for the introduction of the cotton product were taking place in Burkina Faso even though the proper tests have not been carried out with regard to human health.

Sharing her experience and study in her country, Ms Mariam Mayet of the South African Centre for Bio-safety, said poor farmers who grew the genetically modified cotton saw no benefits.

She said, contrary to promises that one would not use pesticides for GM crops, the farmers in South Africa still use pesticides and many have experienced problems with secondary insects.

"GM cotton is not what the farmers need, African farmers require the basics: access to water, farmer support, more choices and above all, better prices for their harvest," she Ms Mayet said. Mr Amadou Kanoute, Regional Director, Consumers International Africa Office (CI-RAF) expressed worry over government's lack of concern on biotechnology issues and attributed that to "vested interest by some nations."

He said Consumer International have always advocated that it was critical for nations to have regulatory framework that must ensure that before any product got to the market, it should satisfy certain cardinal principles.

These include, product safety through proper test, proper labelling to ensure access to information on the product, creation of a responsible institution to ensure consumer safety and ability to trace the product source.

"These are simple basic rights for any consumer that any government should ensure their existence but that is not the case in Africa," Mr Kanoute said.

The workshop exposed to members existing alternatives to genetic modified organism technology that are both sustainable and have allowed African farmers to malnourishment of Africa consumers for several years. These alternatives include insect and virus resistant varieties of crops that are adapted to ecological, social, and cultural conditions of various countries.

Genetically engineering is a relatively new technology involving the manipulation of genes by a process that transfers genes from specie to another unrelated species. GM technology is currently concentrated in four major agricultural commodities such as; soyabean, maize, cotton and canola (rapeseed). 18 Oct. 05

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