THE Department of Environment in the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture is implementing the National Biosafety Framework (NBF) Project to ensure that Basotho and the environment remains safe during the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
The NBF Project Assistant Manager, Motlalentoa Mabejane, recently told the Sunday Express that the biosafety project is aimed at establishing a functional administrative and regulatory regime for GMOs that include seeds, food, animal feed.
“The Framework is based on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is an international treaty governing the movement of GMOs from one country to another,” Mr Mabejane said, adding that it was adopted on 29 January 2000 as a supplementary agreement and Lesotho ratified it in 2001.
Mr Mabejane said the Cartagena Protocol which was signed in Colombia promotes biosafety by establishing practical rules and procedures for the safe transfer, handling and use of GMOs, with a specific focus on regulating transboundary movements of GMOs.
“The project seeks to protect biological diversity and human health from the potential risks that may be posed by GMO resulting from modern biotechnology,” he said.
He said the ministry was currently conducting outreaches in all the country’s 10 districts to educate Basotho on biotechnology and biosafety to enable them to make informed decisions regarding GMOs.
He said biosafety is a concept that aims at eliminating or reducing the potential risks that may result from the use of biotechnology and its products.
“The Cartagena protocol states that products from new technologies must be based on the precautionary principles set by the protocol and allow developing nations to balance public health with economic benefits,” Mr Mabejane said.
Mr Mabejane said the protocol has a set of procedures including one for GMOs that are to be intentionally introduced into the environment called the Advanced Informed Agreement (AIA) procedure and one for GMOs that are intended to be used directly as food, feed or for processing (FFP).
He said it is the responsibility of the parties to the protocol to ensure that GMOs are handled, packaged and transported under conditions of safety.
“GMOs subject to transboundary movement must be accompanied by appropriate documentation,” he said.