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24.10.2005 General News

West African govts urged to develop framework on bio-safety

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Ouagadougou, Oct. 24, GNA - Professor Hamidou Boly, Director of the Institute of Environment and Agricultural Research (INERA) in Burkina Faso, has called for a bio-safety framework to harness the use of biotechnology to safeguard the health of the people in the West Africa Sub-Region.

He said the environment, would also be catered for if the framework were put in place to alley the fears of people on biotechnology.

Prof Boly was speaking to the Ghana News Agency in an interview during a field trip by members of the West African Journalists on Biotechnology to the Bt Cotton Trial Fields in Fada and Bobo-Dioulasso in the Eastern and Western parts of Burkina Faso.

The visit organised by INERA in collaboration with other stakeholders was to enable the journalists to have a look at Bt cotton and acquaint themselves with the application of biotechnology on cotton. It also gave the journalists the opportunity get first hand information on Bt cotton to enable them to improve on their reportage. The journalists came from Ghana, The Gambia, Kenya, Niger, Senegal, Mali, Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

Prof. Boly said what countries within the Sub-Region needed were a visionary leadership, a strong political commitment, an adequate policy and legal and regulatory framework and avoiding increasing technological dependence by promoting and supporting innovation. He explained that biotechnology would not improve only food security but also upgrade the health care systems, offer quality nutrition and raise the living standards of the people.

Prof. Boly noted that though biotechnology had its advantages and disadvantages, the advantages outweighed the disadvantages and the framework should be able to put measures in place to address the possible health risks that might occur to ensure a zero risk. "The contentious debate surrounding it was how people had equated biotechnology with genetically modified (GM) crops and foods and this had led to the intense controversy about the perceived risks to human beings and the environment though scientific evidence of the associated risks continues to be debatable", he said.

Prof. Boly said about 40 per cent of the world's countries like Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, United States and China were using Bt cotton despite the risks.

"All we need to put in place are measures to control those possible risks that might occur as they have done," he said. Prof. Boly stressed the need for journalists to be well informed on the subject to enable them to report accurately to make the people to form their own opinion about the use of biotechnology in improving yields.

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