Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment conducts NBF seminar
October 11, 2013

Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment conducts NBF seminar

Persons from the public and private sector in St Vincent and the Grenadines were this week sensitized about the National Biosafety Frameworks (NBF) project, which was officially launched in April 2013.{{more}}

Under the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, the NBF project was launched in an effort to enable the maximum benefits that can be derived from modern biotechnology, without compromising the environment and animal or human health.

The NBF seminar was held on Wednesday, where participants from the public and private sector addressed various issues surrounding the project.

At the opening ceremony, Permanent Secretary Luis de Shong delivered welcome remarks, in which he noted that the seminar was designed to sensitize persons about the value of biotechnology.

“This is indeed…a special occasion in the development of St Vincent and the Grenadines. It is one of considerable importance,” de Shong said. “The National Biosafety Frameworks project is designed to introduce measures which would safeguard human health and the environment”.

de Shong told participants that with the implementation of the NBF, St Vincent and the Grenadines will be able to reap the maximum benefits which are available to the country from other biosafety institutions.

“This seminar…is designed to sensitize us about the value of biotechnology, to initiate a knowledge base about genetically modified foods, and to recognize the importance of biosafety to us as a producer/exporter of agricultural products, and also as an importer of food crops.

“Biotechnology and biosafety must, therefore, be viewed as being integral to our national development planning priorities, particularly for sustainable development,” the Permanent Secretary said.

Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment Clayton Burgin told participants that biotechnology is not a new process and that it has been used for years to manipulate living things, in an effort to solve problems and improve the way of life.

“The scientific community has advanced to a stage where multi-transgenic organisms based on nanotechnology and synthetic biology have become realities, where biological systems are redesigned and new biological parts and devices such as enzymes, cells…are constructed by scientists,” he said.

In his comprehensive list of ways that biotechnology is used, Burgin made mention of genetically modified crops.

“The scientific community agrees that biotech crop plants and the development of genetically modified crops offer directly the potential for increased agricultural productivity,” the Minister said.

Like de Shong, Burgin noted that St Vincent and the Grenadines imported large amounts of food, the yearly average of which is approximately 4,800 tonnes.

In addition, he noted that eight countries that provide these imports grow genetically modified crops.

“Given this situation…there is a high probability that products and new crop varieties obtained with modern biotechnological methods are already on the Vincentian market,” he said.

Burgin highlighted that it was these factors that make the implementation of the NBF an urgent need.

“St Vincent and the Grenadines must take a precautionary and assess the risk of each application for the development and use of genetically modified organisms on a case by case basis,” the Minister said.

During the seminar on Wednesday, participants were given an overview of the project by Dr Sylvester Lynch, the national project coordinator.

They also discussed the ethical issues concerning genetically modified organisms and living modified organisms.

Furthermore, participants contributed to framing policy and legislation with Michelle Fife, the legal advisor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Consumer Affairs.

At the end of the seminar, participants took part in setting the stage for the consultation phase of the project.