The East African Community is working on fast-tracking a proposed harmonized policy on Biosafety as a key priority. This  will inform future decision-making on the use of the Genetic Modified Organisms (GMOs) crops in the region.

Principal Agricultural Economist at the EAC, Moses Marwa, said recently the draft regional and Biosafety policy that has been under development and would be ready by June 2014.

“The potential of biotechnology in addressing agricultural and climate change challenges should be explored in a science-based manner- to maximize potential benefits and minimize any potential risks,” he said.

According to Marwa, the region is planning national and regional validation workshops beginning July and is expected that by December, all the countries would have fed into the policy if not adopted.

By the end of these workshops, Marwa said the policy would then be submitted to the fifth Sectoral Council on Environment and Natural Resources and later to the 30th Ordinary Council of Ministers.

Mainstreaming of Biosafety in the regional integration agenda is a key priority that will inform future decision-making on the use of the GMO crops in the region, and attest to the fact that the EAC recognizes the fundamental importance of science and technology in economic development.

Meanwhile, all the regional blocs in Africa such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC), and the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) are at different stages of harmonizing Biosafety matters.

South Africa, Burkina Faso in Africa grow biotech crops, while Kenya, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda are still conducting field trials on a broad range of biotech crops.

But this calls for the establishment of a regional biotechnology and the Biosafety unit at the EAC that will help develop a framework for a harmonized regional approach to global negotiations in biotechnology and Biosafety.

Marwa however, noted that there is a need for the regional blocks to develop strategies for public education, participation, awareness in biotechnology and Biosafety. He also called for the establishment of a Panel of Experts (PoE) to guide Biosafety decision making-give risk assessment opinions as well as established EAC Centres of Excellence in biotechnology and Biosafety.



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