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AFRICA Africa: Biosafety Regulators
Urged to Strengthen Links by George Achia
30-May-2012 AllAfrica View
Nairobi — In efforts to harmonise
national biosafety regulations across Africa, the links between
national regulatory authorities and key stakeholders must
be strengthened, say experts at the African Biosafety Network
of Expertise (ABNE).
Many of the continent's science and agriculture ministers
endorsed the use of biotechnology to address poverty and
food insecurity at an annual dialogue held last month (18-19
April) in Accra, Ghana.
But biosafety regulations in many of those countries still
need to be established.
"Countries should learn from one another to avoid
reinventing the wheel," said Samuel Timpo, senior programme
officer at ABNE, which is run by the African Union's New
Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
He was speaking to SciDev.Netafter a week-long study tour
for Africa's regulators and researchers in Pretoria, South
Africa this month, organised by ABNE and AfricaBio, a non-profit
biotechnology safety organisation based in South Africa.
Timpo said the tour aimed to expose African regulators
to good practice and help them learn from one another.
It included workshop sessions on applying agricultural
biotechnology, and biosafety and biotechnology regulation
in South Africa, as well as field and laboratory tours for
biosafety regulators from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi,
Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
The initiative by ABNE has received support from across
the region, with some regulatory agencies and regional trading
blocs saying a stronger and functional biosafety system
could be an important guide to exploiting the potential
benefits of biotechnology and ensuring safe use of genetically
modified crops in Africa.
Miriam Kinyua, chairperson for Kenya's National Biosafety
Authority and professor of biotechnology at Moi University,
told SciDev.Net it was prudent to work with all stakeholders
to take into account their biosafety concerns.
"Developers should not fear that their products are
being curtailed. We want to work and engage in dialogue
with them to ensure that their technology is safe,"
"We are also working closely with policymakers,"
Chungu Mwila, acting chief executive officer for the Alliance
for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa, said:
"It is vital that regulatory institutions inform stakeholders
on the regulations and status of technology".
He told SciDev.Net that appropriate regulations and a strong
institutional structure to apply them is "a must"
if African countries are to create an environment in which
biotechnology can thrive.
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