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Jul 28, 2005

Seminar looks at biodiversity accords

Story PictureBecause Belize is so blessed with an abundance of animal and marine life and has an extensive network of national parks and reserves, Belizeans might sometimes take it all for granted. But a seminar this week on the Cartagena Convention on Biological Diversity is a reminder that with all our natural wealth comes certain responsibilities, including commitments to the wider global community, as well as our own. News Five was at the Biltmore Plaza this morning for the opening session.

Karla Heusner, Reporting
Personnel from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Belize Agricultural Health Authority, BAHA, were joined by representatives from local and international agencies whose aim is to help protect Belize?s environment. While those assembled understand what ?biodiversity? mean, the term may not be familiar to the very public they need to reach with their awareness campaign.

Osmany Salas, Chief Forest Officer
?When we hear biodiversity, it refers to all living organisms. It refers to the living organisms and the ecological systems which they form. So we will hear about the term conservation and about nature protection, which sometimes refers to particular regions, areas or sites. But the term biodiversity is even broader than that. There is biodiversity all around us, which gets affected by our actions. And when we say affected, it could be positively as well as negatively.?

Salas says it is important for Belizeans to understand why the government has signed the Cartagena Convention.

Osmany Salas
?The main purpose to our being a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity is to join in this global commitment to join the global community to sustainably manage and use our biodiversity. The water that we drink, the air that we breathe, the food that we eat; it’s all part of our biodiversity. Different peoples, different groups of people use different elements of this biodiversity. Some of this biodiversity has been genetically altered and that?s where the bio-safety framework comes in.?

BAHA?s Director of Food Safety, Dr. Michael DeShield is one of the presenters at the seminar. His topic on Tuesday will be genetically altered foods and seeds and their implications for Belizeans.

Dr. Michael DeShield, Director of Food Safety, BAHA
?Right now we are actually putting in a system, a national bio safety framework, which is the legal system, an administrative system for the importation–if someone wants to import these products they have to go through this protocol. As far as we are concerned now, there is no planting of any genetically modified seeds in Belize. We need to help develop a policy and the administrative framework if somebody would like to import that. We are getting ready for this to be put in place so that when the request comes, and the request has come, to bring in these things here, that it will go through a risk analysis process to put it in place.?

?Now, there may be genetically modified products here that we are consuming because we import a lot of food, and a lot of foods have gone through that process, but it is not meant to be planted or put in the environment. There might be a lot of cereals, the corn that you eat or something like that in foods that you buy, processed foods, quite likely came from genetically modified products if it came from one of the major G.M. growing regions like the United States and Canada and Argentina.?

Karla Heusner reporting for News Five.

The National Awareness Seminar on the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol on Bio safety ends on Friday.

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