GMOs nothing new - Bokomo

The new regulations in the Biosafety Act requires Bokomo Namibia to apply for a permit to import GMO products.

27 December 2018 | Agriculture

Bokomo Namibia is one of the first companies in Namibia to apply for a permit under the Biosafety Act of 2006, in order to import genetically modified maize and fodder into the country.

The application was made on 17 December.

The relevant regulations become effective on 6 February next year, with the primary aim of controlling and regulating the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) within Namibia's borders.

According to Gabriel Badenhorst, Bokomo's chief operating officer, a permit is required for the importation of GMO products. Thus, Bokomo had to place an advert in local newspapers giving the public until 17 January to comment and/or oppose the planned imports.

“Products containing GMOs have been legal in the Namibian market for years, however, the goal of the new regulations is to regulate their presence instead of simply banning them,” Badenhorst said.

According to the regulations, GMO products, or products containing GMOs, must also be labelled.

Currently, all South African imports, as well as those from other countries that contain GMOs, are already labelled.

Consumers have the right to know which products contain genetically modified ingredients.

Badenhorst added that other requirements for the import of these products include that Bokomo applies to the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology (NCRST) and that it has an emergency response plan, should GMO maize be spilled during transport.

Badenhorst explained that Bokomo Namibia is the first local company to apply for a permit to import products which contain GMOs.

“The application must be made per commodity, for example, for white maize,” he said.

He said he expected the permit to be approved.

“While it will be a first for Namibia to issue a permit under the new regulations, there are GMOs in the country and it is nothing new to sell products that contain GMOs. This has been happening for years in the country.”

Badenhorst said there is a chance that individuals or organisations opposed to GMOs may lodge their objections to their application, but added: “We trust the biosafety board will approve the application for products, and raw products, which have been in use for years in the country and furthermore, that the basic principles of the Cartagena Protocol will be followed.”

This protocol in an international document that regulates the safe use and transport of GMOs.

According to Badenhorst, there is a real need for these products because locally produced non-GMO products are not readily available or produced in sufficient quantities to meet local demand.

“GMO products have been produced, sold and used in Namibia and South Africa. Most of the maize we import from South Africa is GMO and we get the bulk of our white maize from South Africa. The same applies to products containing soya and yellow maize.

“Namibia only produces 50% of its white maize needs and the remainder is imported from South Africa. Should we close the borders for white maize, a local staple, we would have a food shortage,” Badenhorst explained.



ELIVRA HATTINGH

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