Crop Biotech Update

Declaration to Establish African Coalition on Genome Editing Communication Adopted

September 4, 2019

Bioscience stakeholders across the world have resolved to establish an African Coalition for Communicating about Genome Editing, as the curtains came down on the Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication Symposium (ABBC2019) held from August 29-30, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa.

By endorsing a declaration to improving bioscience communication in Africa, the delegates vowed to foster open and transparent dialogue with all stakeholders, including those with divergent views on genome editing. This, they observed, could help build consensus, common understanding and effective use of emerging technologies.

The declaration captures far-reaching resolutions that include a call to encourage public participation in research direction and policy formulation on genome editing. Awareness creation among policy and decision makers on the technology was also prioritized.

The delegates unanimously acknowledged the need for a robust regulatory framework on genome editing that facilitates access to useful and appropriate innovations with potential to build a thriving bioeconomy in Africa. "Genome editing and other modern biotechnologies, while not being the only solution to these challenges, offer great potential in addressing specific concerns in food production, nutrition, health interventions, and environmental restoration and conservation," read the declaration.

In her keynote address at the symposium, Chair of African Union High Level Panel on Emerging Technologies (APET) Prof. Yaye Kene Gassama stressed that the promises of new emerging technologies will only be realized with sound regulation and communication, for transparency that inspire stakeholders' confidence.

"Genome editing offers an opportunity for African scientists to develop home grown solutions to food insecurity and climate change by producing high yielding and resilient seeds, integrating stress tolerance and pest resistance traits,  and ensure a sound and diverse nutritional base." Prof Gassama remarked.

The Symposium was attended by over 100 delegates comprising members of the academic and research community, lawmakers and policy advisors, civil society, life science industry players, the media and other stakeholders drawn from sixteen (16) countries from across the world.

ABBC2019, themed Getting it Right: Communicating about Genome Editing, aimed at providing a platform for interrogating best communication practices that will facilitate informed dialogue and decision making on genome editing in Africa. This was the third edition of the biennial event with the first held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2015 and the second held in Entebbe, Uganda in 2017. The next edition (ABBC2021) will be held in Saly Portudal, Senegal in 2021.

For more on this and other developments at ABBC2019, contact Dr. Margaret Karembu at mkarembu@isaaa.org. You can also join the conversation on genome editing using the hashtag #GetCRISPRRight and by visiting the ABBC website.

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