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Crop Biotech Update

Swaziland Agri Director Expresses Support to Amend the Biosafety Law

May 25, 2016

Swaziland director for agriculture in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Nelson Mavuso, has urged members of parliament to fast-track the proposed amendment to the country's biosafety law. Speaking at a recent awareness seminar on biotechnology and biosafety for members of parliament, Mr. Mavuso urged MPs to consider revising the liability clause in the Biosafety Act 2012 to make it easier for investors and researchers move to open field trials with insect resistant (Bt) cotton.

The meeting was organized by the Swaziland Cotton Board in partnership with the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA/ COMESA) and other partners. It was addressed by scientists from the cotton board who lamented the decline of cotton production in the country. "Insect damage has become a disincentive to cultivate conventional cotton for our farmers," said Daniel Khumalo, Swaziland's Cotton Board Chief Executive Officer.

Mr. Khumalo informed participants that the government had identified GM cotton as a strategic tool to revive the country's cotton industry and to meet the ginnery throughput of 25,000 metric tons. "We have tested Bt cotton and organized farmer field days. The crop has the potential to respond to challenges facing the industry at the moment. However, we could not proceed to open field trials due to the liability clause in the current Biosafety Act," said Mr. Khumalo.

Participants at the meeting visited GM crop farm in neighboring South Africa and interacted with farmers in Limpopo province, Northern South Africa. One of the cotton farmers in the region expressed his satisfaction with GM crops, "Before the introduction of GM crops, I could not expand my fields. When Bt cotton was introduced I started expanding my fields from 6 hectares to 150 hectares in just 15 years." He advocated for the use Bt cotton terming it the best crop to plant in dry lands. Another biotech crop farmer, Jordan Pheeney revealed that he managed to take home a fair harvest despite the drought that lasted throughout the year, thanks to biotech maize. "I will never use conventional seeds," said Mr. Pheeney.

For more information on the meeting, contact Dr. Getachew Belay, the Senior Biotechnology Policy Advisor at ACTESA/COMESA at gbelay@comesa.int.