21 February 2013

Namibia: Nab Calls for Speedy Implementation of Biosafety Act

The Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) is pleading with Government to implement the Biosafety Act, which governs the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).

This comes after some maize products currently on the market were found to contain GMOs.

NAB Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Chris Brock told Nampa on Tuesday that it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education's National Commission on Research, Science and Technology to implement that law.

"We are very unhappy with what is going on. We fully agree with the Namibia Consumer Trust (NCT) that it is wrong to have GMOs in products on the shelves. If so, it is important that it should be labelled as GMO for the consumer to have a choice," he charged.

The NCT recently sent some samples of three maize-based products for testing in a lab at the University of the Free State in South Africa.

That test revealed Ace Instant porridge contains 56,82 percent GM maize, while White Star Maize contains 2,75 percent GM maize, and Top Score maize meal contains 1,09 percent GM maize.

NCT chairperson Sandi Tjaronda said at a media briefing on Monday that the NAB must proactively call on the industry and use the permit system (registration) to discipline the uncalled-for production and/or marketing of GM maize in Namibia.

Since maize in Namibia is a controlled crop, GMOs are not supposed to be present in the product.

"In that regard, the NAB also has a moral obligation to ensure that the industry refunds consumers for having been subjected to a GMO-free premium, while the maize in actual fact contains GMOs," Tjaronda stressed.

In terms of Section 9 of the Agronomic industry Act, the objectives of the NAB are to promote the agronomic industry and to facilitate the production, processing and marketing of controlled products in Namibia.

However, Brock said if the Act is correctly and fully implemented, the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology would appoint inspectors to check and inspect products, or visit farms for inspections to prevent such disasters.

Tjaronda indicated that the issue is not whether the marketing agreement violates the Namibian competition law, but rather whether "the practice of fixing the price through an agreement between millers and producers at the expense of the consumer is morally correct".

He said this practice is unfair to the consumer "because producers are allowed to unilaterally determine prices and other trading conditions under the auspices of the NAB, allowing them to effectively create an uncompetitive cartel".

This violates the consumer's right to choice, and subsequently affects the price charged to the consumer, Tjaronda continued.

"Consumers are forced to buy the local produce at exorbitant prices through the closed border and marketing arrangement during the marketing season. Furthermore, local suppliers do not compete as they all need to sell as per the conditions of the marketing agreement," he stated. - Nampa

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