Biotech Updates

Experts Highlight Importance of Coordinated GM Seed Policies in African Region

October 27, 2021

Research experts explored the policy implications for seed systems in the sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region where genetically modified (GM) crops are being approved by different countries in the area. Their analysis produced several recommendations which include the importance of harmonization of individual country regulations as well as the close coordination of government approaches for the long-term benefit of agricultural innovation in the region.

Good seed quality is important to a country's agricultural productivity and much more to a continental sub-region. The availability of these seeds, on the other hand, is affected by the legal and regulatory environment of the region. It was observed in the study that as the seed sector in SSA evolved as more GM seeds became available, the layers and dimensions of regulations became more complex. In particular, plant breeding in its early stages needs to consider various environmental regulations and food and feed safety. The process of variety registration also needs to be aligned with biosafety procedures. Moreover, when a new GM seed variety is commercialized, factors that need to be considered are the general stewardship practices, pest resistance management, stipulations in seed laws and regulations, and managing adventitious presence in conventional seed sales.

The following recommendations were made by the experts:

  1. Close intra-government coordination and representation of institutions in national biosafety committees expedite timely reviews and decision-making.
  2. Public-private partnerships can guide commercial introduction of GM technology to ensure familiarity, farmer awareness, and product stewardship.
  3. Policy reforms that promote harmonization of regulatory mandates can be adopted by multiple countries.

In conclusion, the experts emphasized that governments need to prepare for the judicious introduction and dissemination of GM technologies. Emerging best practices can be shared among governments for the benefit of the countries involved, especially those who have limited capacity and expertise. Likewise, they encouraged the formulation and adoption of common guidelines to manage the introduction and intra-regional trade involving GM seeds.

Read the full article in Agronomy.

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