Crop Biotechnology and Biosafety in Africa

Saturday, 15 February 2014
Regency B (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Diran Makinde , New Partnership for Africa's Development , Ouagadougou , Burkina Faso
In a quest to reduce hunger, food insecurity and poverty through agriculture, African governments agreed to increase public investment in agriculture  by committing a minimum of 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture with the aim of raising agricultural productivity by at least 6 per cent by 2015. To achieve this, a mixture of both conventional and biotechnological approaches would be required. African countries are making steady progress towards developing and implementing domestic frameworks that comply with the main multilateral framework, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB). The African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) was conceived under the auspices of the NEPAD Agency by African leaders to build functional biosafety system including the capacity of African regulators in all aspects of regulatory regimes.

To enhance the regulatory systems in Africa, the following have been suggested: availability and sustainability of financial resources to the regulatory systems; the need for integration of multiple actors with multiple agendas; access to credit by farmers to buy GE seed; capacity to enforce regulations; capacity for inspection and monitoring; increase public awareness; access to accurate information on biotech/biosafety; adequate infrastructure; timely and adequate seed supply; nascent public-private sector partnerships; and improved linkages in public-private partnerships.

The political dimension of genetic engineering(GE) was and still is the outstanding problem on its regulation in Africa and is mainly attributed to Africa’s policy-making elites. Some early adopter countries warmed up to GE technology and later observed with some elements of ‘backsliding’ due to the misinformation and activisms. Elections can be both a challenge and an opportunity.