The Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Oreeditse Molebatsi, presented the Bio-Safety Policy to parliament on Wednesday, with Members of Parliament across the political divide giving the document the green light for implementation.
While acknowledging the development to safeguard human health and environment associated with modified natural processes of living organisms, MPs cautioned the government to ensure thorough research and public education are at the front line.
The move should ascertain modern Bio-Technology Science does not necessarily breed potential adverse effects.
“We import most of our products and services from outside and it is thus important that such a noble policy like this one finds us already prepared on matters of research and public education over these Genetically Modified Organisms,” said Palapye MP, Moisaraela Goya.
“Without research to ascertain the good use of these products in the country then we are headed for disaster,” Goya added, insisting local researchers were crucial for the smooth running of the Bio-Safety policy and eventual law and regulations expected to be brought to the House in due course.
With the country now boasting of an International Science and Technology University, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party legislator said it was an opportune time the institution produced employable graduates to fill these sectors.
“Some of these products contain very dangerous ingredients and it is thus important that we have an over-reaching education system. The public should be informed…We should leave no stone unturned.
The underprivileged and the less educated should be taken on board,” Goya maintained.
As the rest of the global world attempts for food security amid the unpredictable climate change, Botswana is not left behind and hopes to reap from both the local and foreign manufactured Bio-Technology modified products.
But she has to tread carefully as to come with the policy and eventually the laws and regulations surrounding the products which are attributable to deterioration of environment, diseases and allergies to some consumers and handlers.
Apart from modifying the natural processes of living organisms to improve plants and animals or develop products for specific use, modern Bio-Technology is used in the field of medicine, agriculture and environmental protection.
“In the field of human and veterinary medicine, it is commonly used in the development of drugs and vaccines and in agriculture for improvement of both crop cultivars and livestock breeds,” Molebatsi earlier informed parliament.
MP for Ngami, Taolo Habano, echoed the same sentiments as his colleagues, saying it was imperative for research and public education to be carried out as the modified products have the propensity to change the human body.
“These products are no longer original. The crops have been affected,” Habano said, calling on the government to go step by step on the approach.
“We have drought resistant crops and if not careful over our approach we will find ourselves without such varieties,” the opposition Botswana Congress Party MP noted.
Research and knowledge amongst the stakeholders, particularly consumers, are important before embarking on the policies with Habano reminding Molebatsi of cases over allergies.
“Some of us here do not know our health status and it is thus important that we take some precautious over the products,” he advised, acknowledging the process of genetically modified organisms products in the same vein for food security.
For her part, Serowe South MP Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi called for the protection of research and intellectual acts, insisting “our Segaolane is doing well in some neighbouring countries”.
She also urged for public education and research so that the country does not become a dumping site for the products.