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Crop Biotech Update

COMESA Biosafety Policies and Guidelines are Relevant to Swaziland

February 4, 2011

The Swaziland national consultative workshop on the COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) regional biosafety policies and guidelines was held on January 27, 2011 in Manzini, Swaziland. In his opening speech, the Swazi Minister for Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Hon. Mcford Sibandze announced that the Swaziland National Biosafety Bill has passed through the cabinet and is now being debated by Parliament.

 "It is our hope that this bill will be turned into law during this financial year when all consultations have been exhausted - therefore, we have to be ready with all ammunitions available in order to address our food security challenges," said  Minister Robert Thwala, Principal Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Agriculture. He noted the relevance to Swaziland of all the three issues addressed in the draft COMESA biosafety guidelines namely: commercial planting of GMOs, trade in GMOs, and access to emergency food assistance with GM content, and, the urgency for their adoption as quickly as possible without compromising biosafety.

The PS was explicit in the potential uses of the GM technology to address the food security challenges of Swaziland and the next steps for its safe application. "Given the standing applications to the competent authority to conduct trials on GM crops relevant to Swaziland, and the enactment of the biosafety bill soon, the country needs capacity building assistance in risk assessment in order to make the right decisions, " the PS urged.

COMESA is a regional economic bloc composed of 19 Member States.

Email Getachew Belay, Sr. Biotechnology Policy Advisor, Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) at  gbelay@actesacomesa.org  for additional information.