The first ever public laboratory for Genetically Modifies Organism (GMO) testing was opened at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry today (28 May).
The development of the GMO testing laboratory began in December 2008, which was not easy as it was not budgeted for.
Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa says: “I am happy that the GMO laboratory is fully operational. This initiative began after concerns were raised about GMO seeds and food that entered the country. All this time, the competent authority and responsible government institute for doing the GMO tests was the Ministry of Education,” he said.
He added that he felt “the Ministry of Agriculture 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 when so required.”
He emphasized the fact the ministry availing this GMO testing facilities does not take over the responsibility of the competent authority, but should rather be seen and accepted as a complimentary and supplementary role. The new laboratory can serve as a referral laboratory in Namibia to help serve the public.
According to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety that some 40% of the world’s economy, is derived from biological diversity, humanity is pushing ecosystems, species and gene pools to extinction faster.
“If we are not careful enough, our genetic resources may disappear through the uncontrolled use of GMO seeds or plants and the list goes on”, Mutorwa said.
He adds: “I am 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 labeling of these products would give consumers choices whether to take GMO food stuffs or not.”
Chris Viljoen, Professor of the Department of Haematology and Cell Biology, GMO Testing Facility at the University of Orange Free States, was actively involved in the GMO laboratory initiative.
“The challenges of GMO testing are specialized expertise, equipment and methods required, ” he says.
The GMO detection is needed for various reasons including to assure purity and segregation of products, to assure compliance with legislation, trade to comply with international import legislation.