Tanzania looks abroad for GM advice

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[ARUSHA] The government of Tanzania has asked 29 of its ambassadors based in foreign countries to seek scientific advice from such countries to help it pave the way for adopting genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Speaking at a meeting of ambassadors in Arusha last month, Tanzania’s minister for agriculture and food security, Charles Keenja, said that China, India, and South Africa, as well as the United Kingdom, the United States, and other developed countries, could help Tanzania to set up regulations on GMOs.

He called on the ambassadors to tap into the knowledge in these countries to “help our nation to solicit and acquire the right scientific skills on GMOs”.

GM organisms would soon become indispensable, in the way that computers were today, Keenja said. He added that “whether we like [it] or not, in future we will be compelled to adopt this technology”.

Last year, Tanzania was one of 14 countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) that agreed to adopt common rules on the use of GMOs (see Southern African nations adopt common GM strategy). Since then, Tanzania has set up a national committee to oversee the drafting of the laws on GMOs — and this committee will need the input of expertise from other countries, Keenja said.

“So far there is no outright evidence showing [any negative effects of] GMOs,” Keenja said. He pointed out that 30 per cent of crops grown in the United States are genetically modified, and added that the technology could be a saviour to developing nations.

The ambassadors’ meeting in Arusha was organised by the government as part of its strategy of changing Tanzanian foreign policy from being ‘political focused’ to involving what is being called ‘economic diplomacy’.