State Finalises Biotech Regulations

GOVERNMENT has finalised preparations of environment regulations to allow research on biotechnology in the country.

Minister for Science and Technology, Prof Makame Mbarawa, said this in Dar es Salaam on Friday that a review of the regulations will allow for research on biotechnology, adding further long term probes.

Prof Mbarawa was speaking during a tour by the Parliamentary Committee on infrastructure at the Commission for Science and Technology (Costech), representatives of the Committee visited the country’s state of the art biotech laboratory at Mikocheni Agriculture Research Institute (MARI).

Earlier this year, President Jakaya Kikwete challenged scientists in the country to conduct research to establish the practicality of biotechnology to enable the government act accordingly.

However, a prohibitive legal clause in the 2009 Biosafety Regulations, holds everyone liable to punitive sanction – from developers, financiers and other partners, down to the last sales outlet, should anything go wrong in the development and utilisation of agricultural biotechnology, is still in place.

This has been a huge obstacle to Tanzania’s researchers, they say. Researchers say the clauses that hinder effective research and development in GM technology in Tanzania, include, the Precautionary Principle; Strict Liability and a Requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) at the level of doing any research in agricultural biotechnology.

Yesterday, the Minister pledged that the government is going to scale up its focus on research, by also making it independent in terms of resource mobilisation.

He noted that the public and private sectors are coming together to scale up efforts in focusing on scientific research. His pledge followed concerns from Members of Parliament (MPs) that funds for research are not sufficient and thus causing lack of growth in various areas of research.

A number of legislators raised concern that a country without research cannot have informed policies, cautioning that when Parliament passes a budget going to this particular area, the central government should fully implement it.

Presenting to the legislators, the Coordinator of National Fund for the advancement of science and technology, housed at the Commission for Science and Technology (Costech), Dr Bakari Msangi, said between 2010 and 2013 – 517 researchers got sponsorship for further studies at Masters (316) and PhD levels(201).

Among those, some 109 had already finished studies by December 2014 in Sokoine University of Agriculture (40 MSc and 2 PhD), Nelson Mandela University of Science and Technology (21 MSc) and University of Dar es Salaam (20MSc).

He said there were various research projects going on including 56 that were given priority for the agriculture sector between 2012 and 2015 – 15 research projects in cooperation with South Africa, a project on Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, almost completed, the founding of the Nyerere resource centre to be opened at Costech on 18th of this month.

Another project involved the police about accessibility of information on participatory security and was launched in November, last year. He said that last year Costech had come up with a proposal that targets funding of various projects by Sida. He said the aim is to fund 25 new projects at a cost of 90m/- each between 2015 and 2017.

He said the current focus is on leveraging technologies for social economic transformation. He told legislators that some achievements of the Commission include taking part in the process to review environment regulations so as to allow research on biotechnology and starting of the 3D printing technology that is meant to give jobs to youths.

However, Dr Msangi also informed members of Parliament (MPs) that the Commission was facing challenges such as not getting enough resources that fits their aspirations for the country.

He said that investments in research by development partners in research has always had a condition of contribution from the host government.

He also said there was scarcity of scientists in various areas of their work, noting that this was largely caused by the long bureaucratic process of employment used by the Public Service Commission.