By Femi Peters – Speaking with Mr. Ernest Aubee, the Principal Programme Officer and Head of Agriculture of ECOWAS during an interview with our reporter, Mr. Aubee gave his opinion about the biosafety framework which was being validated in the Gambia.
Reporter: What is this concept of GMO?
Mr. Aubee: GMOs are the manipulation of genes in crops and livestock to boast productivity like in the improvement of Milk and beef production in Animals.
Reporter: What are possible side effects?
Mr. Aubee: GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and LMOs (Living Modified Organisms) are products of scientific experimentations having both positive and negative sides. In terms of the positive side, they help in boasting crop production and scientific evidence points to the fact that if GMOs and LMOs are used “properly”, they would definitely help production. In regards to the Negative aspects associated with GMOs come into play when you try to change this genes, they are bound to bring about new genes that can be harmful. Science has put in place mechanizes to safeguard humans, which is Biosafety. Biosafety would help protect human from negative impacts of GMOs and LMOs. GMOs and LMOs are available all over the world and ECOWAS wants safeguard its member states so that they are protected so that when GMOs come in they are subjected to test and risk assessment, has West Africa is a large sub region and it should have a common framework to protect it. For instance, if two countries have varying protocols or policies as regards to GMOs and LMOs. One country can facilitate transboundary movement which might affect the people from neighboring country based on movement across border of these goods, which is why the Gambia has to validate the biosafety framework in order to protect its citizens.
Reporter: What social impact would this have on people based on indigenous crops?
Mr. Aubee: One of the key elements is that indigenous crops must be protected; the indigenous crops should not be neglected because they serve as a national identity. Once GMOs are introduced and probably new health problems are noticed, they would mean more money would have to be spent on providing medication to solve this health issues. However if they are not properly handled they would have adverse effects on populace. Controls should be put under strict regulations, so that new introductions don’t wipe out indigenous products like in developed countries, GMOs are under control because of proper planning.
Reporter: Would this technology not bring about unemployment and encourage laziness. ,
Mr. Aubee: Most of the developing countries are engaged in Agriculture but food is still insufficient, this is because of the lack of Technology .But if the right technology is introduced, the increment in production in developing countries would be noticed. As regards to laziness, GMOs would not actually make people become lazy but would increase production exponentially with little or no additional efforts. As per unemployment, agriculture is not only production but a value chain which involves cultivation, processing, packaging and transportation till it gets to final consumer, so many young people have roles to play, so as more production takes place more jobs are created for people. So eventually modern science and technology would make Agriculture interesting. Putting in mind that people are seriously encouraged to go back to land in The Gambia and embrace farming.
Reporter: Would funds be made available for the full integration of the biosafety framework.
Mr. Aubee: As the Gambia validates its biosafety framework, policies and legislations would be put into place and proper implementation would be considered and carried out. Gambia makes good steps as regards the biosafety framework while Provision are been made to cater for the instruments that would facilitate the control and provide ECOWAS and its other partners the chance to provide capacity building and infrastructure to implement the control, Individual members states are also putting in their personal efforts at institutional strengthening and capacity building.
Reporter: At what stages are other members in regards to the biosafety framework?
Mr. Aubee: The entire 15 member states of ECOWAS are involved in the biosafety framework, as the Gambia is presently validating the biosafety framework so is Cape Verde. Others like Senegal, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana are presently leading in the Biosafety framework while others are at various stages. But the objective is to get all the member states to the same level, as the head of states of the member states of ECOWAS have given their mandates to have this biosafety measures in place.
Concluding, the Gambia and all its stakeholders have deliberated over the draft biosafety framework in issues of human health, Agriculture etc and the country is on right standing in its pursuit in the cause of promoting Agriculture, as like in the Millennium Development Goal One that talks about Poverty and Food insecurity as ECOWAS would continue to support the Gambia in this line as it continues to fight poverty and food insecurity.
Reporter: Thank you for this short interview and we hope to be availed of this kind of opportunity when next you come to the Gambia, not withstanding your tight schedule.