Crop Biotech Update

African Biosafety Stakeholders Meet to Discuss Emerging Biosafety Legislation

April 20, 2011

A meeting of biosafety service providers in Africa together with focal points took place in Nairobi, Kenya from April 11 to 12, 2011. The meeting was the third biosafety coordination meeting one year after the second one held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on April 9, 2010. Representatives from 12 biosafety initiatives and focal points from 12 countries attended the two-day meeting which was organized by the AU-NEPAD Agency ABNE, in collaboration with the IFPRI/Program for Biosafety System (PBS).

Up for discussion was the coordination and collaboration among service providers in the area of Biosafety programming. Participants shared insights and reflections that could inform organizations and individuals involved in Biosafety; facilitated the establishment of workable agricultural biotechnology regulatory frameworks through a platform that would synergize work on emerging Biosafety legislations in Africa; and promoted information sharing on the Sub-Regional Framework on Biosafety, to improve the capacity of member states for Biosafety administration and management.

During the meeting, it was emphasized that African countries must develop workable regulatory frameworks that are science-based, predictable, transparent and balanced. Discussions focused on the assessment of the legislative environment of COMESA and ECOWAS countries, the critical issues in legislating biotechnology in Africa focusing on country experiences, challenges,and lessons learned. The Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol and the industry position as revealed in the compact were also shared. To minimize duplication, participants agreed to establish an information exchange platform across various biosafety initiatives through annual meetings; exchange of work plans among service providers, and cost-sharing among listservs. It was concurred that strategies for preparatory meetings for stakeholders on Nagoya outcomes such as environmental risk assessment, socio-economics at both country and regional levels be developed.

Participants recommended continuous capacity strengthening for regulators and other stakeholders involved in biosafety legislation processes. They also proposed to develop training information kits or manuals for regulators. A working group was formed and timelines agreed upon for activities to be carried out jointly by the service providers.

 For more information, contact Prof. Diran Makinde, Director of the AU-NEPAD Agency African Biosafety Network of Expertise at diran.makinde@nepadbiosafety.net.