Crop Biotech Update

Agri-biotech and Biosafety Communication Training in Malawi

July 29, 2015

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA AfriCenter), in conjunction with the National Commission of Science and Technology in Malawi (NCST), and the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) conducted a science communications training workshop for different biotech stakeholders in Malawi. As of October 2014, Malawi harvested its 2nd season confined field trial (CFT) for Bt cotton as well as its 1st multi-location trial. Recently, an application to conduct CFTs of Bt cowpea was accepted by the Biosafety Regulation Authority. Although the promising results from the Bt cotton CFTs has garnered much needed support for the technology, the safety of biotech crops is still treated with skepticism by the public. Hence the main objective of the workshop was to strengthen the capacity of key stakeholders to effectively communicate  biosafety processes and on the safety and benefits of transgenic foods. The workshop took place on July 15-17, 2015 at the Silver Sands Hotel in Salima, Malawi.

Opening the workshop, the Director General of NCST, Mr. Anthony Muyepa, commended the organizers for the timely training as it is crucial for Malawi to create a team that will effectively engage the public and provide information in a way that builds their trust and clears misconceptions. He indicated that this is particularly critical now that Malawi will be testing Bt cowpea, which is a major food crop in the country.

Participants to the workshop were drawn from government departments, universities, research institutes, and farmer leaders. Participants expressed their satisfaction at being equipped with skills to help them effectively communicate agri-biotech issues to various stakeholders. They appreciated the need for being reactive rather than proactive in countering misinformation. "Lack of information can be misinformation, so provide correct and timely information." This is a lesson learnt by one of the participants.

For more information, contact Dr. Margaret Karembu mkarembu@isaaa.org.