Namibia: GMO Laboratory Inaugurated


Namibia: GMO Laboratory Inaugurated


NAMIBIA has inaugurated its first ever Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) testing laboratory. The inauguration comes a few months after a test conducted by the Namibian Consumer Trust (NCT) found that maize meal sold in some shops in the country is derived from GMOs.

With this new facility, Agriculture, Water and Forestry Minister John Mutorwa said his ministry is now ready to test whatever is presented to it, including planting materials used at the government’s Green Scheme Irrigation projects.

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“This facility can also serve as a referral laboratory in the country. It is a public facility, to serve the public,” he said at the inauguration in the capital yesterday.

Mutorwa said the idea to develop GMO testing facilities was initiated in December 2008 when Cabinet and members of the public raised concerns about what his ministry was doing about GMO seeds and food entering our country.

“I felt then, and still strongly feel that the Ministry of Agriculture, as a government entity responsible for food production, needs to and must do something about this state of affairs since the nation and Cabinet’s eyes are on us as food producers to protect the country and her people when so required,” he said.

He further outlined that governments and civil society globally have been and are collaborating, through the Convention on Biological Diversity and Bio-safety, to reverse the tide of devastation that humanity has inflicted upon the natural world.

“If we are not careful, our genetic resources may disappear through the uncontrolled use of GMO seeds or plants. I’m not against science but what we are saying as food producers is that consumers have the right to know what they are consuming, therefore proper, ethical, honest and professional labelling of products would give consumers choices, whether to take GMO food stuffs or not,” he said.

Professor Chris Viljoen of the Department of Haematology and Cell Biology GMO testing facility at the University of the Free State in South Africa who has been actively involved in the setting up of the GMO laboratory in Namibia said the government needed GMO detection for monitoring purposes, as well as to assure compliance with legislation and international agreements.

“For the food and feed industries, GMO detection is also needed to assure purity and segregation of products,” he said.

Viljoen said that among the advantages of GMO testing is that it is applicable for both unprocessed and processed foods, and it provides a platform for other forms of genetic testing.

“GMO testing has become an important part of managing food security with regards to imports and exports. The technology platform is versatile and can be used in other types of genetic testing,” Viljoen said.

He added that testing for GMO remains a challenge due to a shortage of expertise, equipment and methods.

Mutorwa cited allergies in some people as one of the bad effects of eating food stuffs containing GMO.


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