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National Bio-Safety Framework Validated

Feb 11, 2009, 2:59 AM | Article By: Abdou Rahman Sallah

Mr. Alpha Omar Jallow has said that modern biotechnology might have much promise for the improvement of human well-being but its potential adverse effects on the environment, biological diversity and human health are causing a growing public concern. Mr. Jallow made his remarks in his capacity as the director of Parks and Wildlife Management at a one-day validation of the National biosafety framework workshop held at Atlantic Hotel in Banjul.

According to him, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure the safety of the people and the environment with respect to the risks arising from genetically modified organisms (GMO's) and products of genetically modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology. He noted that with potential risks posed by the genetic modification, it is necessary to cope with the nature and scale of known and potential risk associated with genetically modified organisms. He added that while modern biotechnology has demonstrated its ability, there is concern about the potential risks to biodiversity and human health posed by living modified organisms. "Many countries already have domestic legislation in place intended to ensure the safe transfer, handling, use and disposal of living modified organisms and their products," he stated.

Mr. Jallow further pointed out that there are no binding international agreements addressing situations where living modified organisms cross national boundaries. He noted that genetic modified organisms such as crop seeds can be difficult to control, as the GMO materials is not easily distinguished.

For his part, the deputy permanent secretary, Mr. Abdoulie Danso, said that the world community has expressed concern over methods of genetic engineering. This is due to the unpredictability in the biological behaviour of genetically modified organisms in the long term when introduced into natural ecosystems. He described biosafety as a term to describe the policies and procedures to ensure the safe practice and application of biotechnology in medicine, agriculture, environment and other areas.

According to him, living and natural resources found in developing countries have become raw materials and are potentially considered to have high commercial values for the biotechnological industries. He further pointed out that because of its potential financial value, corporations are using World Trade Organization agreements to force developing countries to allow their biological resources to be privatized through patent rights. Such action has led to privatizing scarce resources in developing countries without adequately compensating these countries through royalties and patent rights.