Crop Biotech Update

COMESA Regional Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy Implementation Plan Validated

April 8, 2015

The COMESA Member States through country delegations have validated the implementation plan on the COMESA policy on biotechnology and biosafety (COMBIP), in a regional workshop held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from March 11-13, 2015. This comes a year after the approval and adoption of the COMESA policy on commercial planting, trade and emergency food assistance involving GMOs, by the 32nd Meeting of the COMESA Council of Ministers in February 2014 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to Dr. Getachew Belay, the Senior Biotechnology Policy Advisor at ACTESA, COMESA is committed to assist Member States to continue building institutions and regulatory frameworks that will guide the use of biotechnology in agriculture.

In his opening statement at the meeting, the representative of the Ethiopia's Minister for Environmental Protection and Forestry highlighted the potential of biotechnology to mitigate the challenges arising in agriculture. These sentiments were echoed by leaders of various Member States who were present at the meeting.

The COMESA Regional Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy Implementation Plan is designed to translate the COMESA Policy on Biotechnology and Biosafety into an effective, region-wide implementation program. The overall goal of the plan is to support the Member States to realize their aspirations of becoming active participants in the global biotechnology enterprise through commercial planting of GM crops, trade in products of GM technology and involvement in dealings with emergency food aid with GM content.

The plan will involve the enhancing of awareness and outreach activities in a continuous and progressive manner. A regional biosafety risk assessment mechanism is also envisaged in the plan. This will rely on the establishment and efficient functioning of a COMESA Biotechnology and Biosafety Panel of Experts and a COMESA Biosafety Risk Assessment and Management Desk. The plan will also see to the capacity building for biosafety regulation and biotechnology research and product development/ testing at Member States level.

For more information on COMBIP, please contact Dr. Getachew Belay at gbelay@comesa.int.