Biotech Updates

Ethiopian Government Commended for Agri-biotech Initiatives

October 12, 2016

The Ethiopian government's political goodwill has been praised for placing the country in a strategic position to utilize biotechnology tools in agricultural production. A team comprising representatives from U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and other international biotechnology and biosafety partners lauded that, for the first time, Ethiopian government had committed USD4.5 million towards development of the country's biotechnology road map. The road map was unanimously adopted by the Council of Ministers led by H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia. It has led to the establishment of Ethiopian Biotechnology Research Institute in a bid to raise the country's capacity for agricultural biotechnology.

During the coordination meeting on September 29, 2016 in Addis-Ababa, it was announced that after the revision of the biosafety proclamation which was previously described as stringent, the country has seen a complete turnabout in the progress towards adoption of agricultural biotechnology. Other than the biotechnology road map, there have also been remarkable institutional achievements such as development of the country's biosafety guidelines. These include guidelines on application for deliberate release of living modified organisms (LMOs), risk assessment parameters for LMOs, management of risks from handling of LMOs, requirements for transport and storage of products from LMOs and guidelines of application for special permit to handle LMOs for research and teaching.

Mr. Belete Geda who represented the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in the meeting, called on international partners for support in strengthening the country's capacity for biotechnology. While tremendous progress has been made, a lot remains to be done in infrastructural and human resource capacity in biotechnology. Awareness creation efforts among policy makers and the public needs to be heightened while creating enabling systems for scientists to communicate biotechnology information to the public. The parliamentarians present in the meeting promised to address the issue of procurement so that research may not be unnecessarily delayed.

For more updates about biotechnology in Africa, visit the ISAAA AfriCenter website.