African countries called upon to ensure stronger linkages for biosafety regulations

African countries have been called upon to build stronger linkages with National Regulatory Authorities and key stakeholders to ensure successful regional harmonization of bio-safety regulations.

“Establishing workable harmonized regional bio-safety processes will require platforms for consultation and a clear understanding of how national systems want to benefit from the regional approach.

“This will help in developing capacity and expertise in biotechnology and biosafety regulations,” Mr Samuel E. Timpo, Senior Program Officer of the AU-NEPAD African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) stated at the opening of a week’s study tour for African regulators and researchers in Pretoria, South Africa.

He said the establishment of workable harmonized regional bio-safety processes will also aid its implementation and enforcement to create an enabling environment for biotechnology to thrive in the African countries.

The tour, organized by ABNE in collaboration with AfricaBio, a non profit organization, aimed at promoting the sharing of knowledge and experience between regulators.

It will also create a platform for countries with emerging bio-safety systems and regulators as well as industry practitioners that are conducting field trials or have commercialized biotechnology crops.

The study tour will include workshop sessions to provide an over view of divergent and cross cutting issues related to the agricultural biotechnology application, bio-safety, and biotech regulation in South Africa, economic development potential for African agriculture and food security as well as field and laboratory tours.

Mr. Timpo explained that national governments needed to provide adequate funding for regulatory activities to replace the current over-reliance on funding from donors or international agencies to ensure sustainability.

“The way forward relies on strong political will, trust, commitment, respect, recognition for national sovereignty, transparency, participatory consultation, and planning”, he said.

Mr Timpo said national experts should be engaged to promote harmonization of bio-safety regulations among relevant government ministries within national systems.

He said harmonizing regulations was important and that clearly enough similarities existed for the sub-regional initiatives to succeed in achieving this.

The process, he explained, required commitment to the cause and inputs from stakeholders with genuine intent, consultations, negotiations, and consensus   building across member states.

He said African countries must discard the assumption that foreign multinationals would be the only users of the technology for research and development purposes as “this will inadvertently penalize public institutions interested in GMO research, especially on crops and traits of national and regional interest”.

Creation of platforms for public-private dialogue for confidence building and partnerships to promote resource sharing and exchange of experiences and best practices he noted were very crucial and urged all to embrace the spirit of sharing to give meaning to the creation of regional centres of excellence.

Dr Nompumelelo Obokoh, Eexcutive Director of Africa Bio, said small-scale farmers contributed significantly to the food production of countries and there was the need for serious attention to be turned to assist them.

Source: GNA

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