It is still uncertain whether Genetically Modified (GM) foods will effectively enhance food security, according to African Commonwealth lawmakers.
This was highlighted yesterday as the African Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) conference meeting in Kigali, debated the role of parliament in mitigating the impact of GM crops on poverty and food security in Africa.
GM foods are derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Moving the motion, Lindiwe Maseko, a lawmaker in the province of Gauteng, in South Africa, noted that the outcome of GM crops is a mixture of positive and negative impact on countries.
She noted that it was important that stakeholders “continue to debate the pros and cons of GMOs.
“The citizens must be consulted, educated and informed on the processes parliamentarians intend to put in place to mitigate the GMOs,” she told the House.
During break, Maseko told The New Times that: “I think that as Parliamentarians, we need to ensure a strict oversight role in that area for the health of our people, but also to ensure that there is food security.”
The CPA-Africa group acknowledges that the GMO project remains a challenge for African governments.
Addressing the House, Maseko pointed out some advantages – reduced productivity costs, increased productivity per hectare, and cutting down on green house gases.
She also highlighted some de-merits, particularly on human health effects like allergy, antibiotics resistance, potential negative environmental effects, and issues of access and intellectual property which will increase dependency on developed nations.
According to her, improving the effectiveness of oversight and scrutiny mechanisms must be introduced and parliaments should ensure that they do not become the unwitting victims of the interests of the GMO manufacturers, among others.
She noted that African lawmakers should consider enacting legislation and policies that effectively address food security challenges, based on country specifics; advocate for the transformation of agricultural production into ecologically, economically, socially culturally appropriate systems; and encourage governments to commit more resources to research on alternative production systems.
Rwanda’s Jean Baptiste Musemakweli said: “I am afraid of Africans going back to another form of slavery – of genetically modified plants. We need to be cautious, as parliamentarians when we enact laws for our governments. So, the solution here is that – we must make sure that we produce our own GMOs”.