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Crop Biotech Update

Biotech Experts Convene to Develop Regional GM Policy for Eastern and Southern Africa

May 18, 2012

A new regional GM policy regime for Eastern and Southern Africa may be in place by the end of the year if recommendations of biotech experts are ratified by the COMESA Ministers of Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources. Work on the policy has been on going with various countries giving their input to the document which was the central item of discussion at the Regional Workshop on Draft COMESA Policy for GMO Commercial Planting, Trade and Emergency Food Aid held from 8-9 May in Lusaka, Zambia. The meeting took place under the auspices of the Regional Approach to Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy in Eastern and Southern Africa (RABESA) project is part of a joint regional strategy on GM endorsed by the COMESA member states' Ministers of Agriculture in 2007.

The Regional Workshop was attended by delegates from 15 COMESA member states with the objective to offer feedback from national consultations on the draft COMESA policy on GMOs. The clarion call at the forum was for the need for COMESA economic bloc member states to be categorical on how to manage the commercial planting and trade in GMOs as well as their use as emergency food aid within the region.

"All the three areas addressed in the draft Policy document are of high relevance and importance to the COMESA region. It is therefore prudent for the member states to adopt a common policy framework," said Dr. Chungu Mwila, CEO Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) as he made the opening speech of the meeting.

A revised policy document has now been agreed on and recommendations are set to be presented at the 2012 Joint Meeting of the COMESA Ministers of Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources. The countries unanimously expressed commitment to support a regional approach and stressed that adequate attention should be paid to issues of national sovereignty. The countries called upon COMESA to address capacity building needs of member states in order to enhance capabilities for conducting risk assessment for GMOs.

 For more information contact Dr. Margaret Karembu, director of ISAAA AfriCenter, at m.karembu@isaaa.org.