Strengthening biosafety and biotechnology application in Eastern and Southern Africa
Following a regional biosafety meeting held in Harare in October 1993 with the support of DGIS, the Netherlands, 14 Eastern and Southern African countries have established a Regional Biosafety Focal Point (RBFP). The goal of RBFP is to promote information exchange on biosafety issues. A first RBFP and SEI course for representatives was held in June 1996. In an effort to consolidate this approach, and to develop a critical mass in biosafety and risk assessment in the region, a second course was organized from 6-10 April in Harare by CTA, GTZ, SEI, BIOGUM, RBFP and SAGENE. Twenty-six participants were selected from Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The main objective of the workshop was to train these participants in biosafety and risk assessment of transgenic crops and the establishment and operation of biosafety structures in those countries where no national biosafety system exists. The workshop reviewed general principles of biosafety assessment and international collaboration on biotechnology as well as different regulatory structures in the European Union, and the USA. The most appreciated part of the workshop was the session on risk assessment in practice, which was aimed at building confidence at individual and institutional level on biotechnology and biosafety issues. This exercise used maize and cotton simulations (transgenic varieties of these crops are expected to, be released in Africa within a few years). Major constraints highlighted by participants were lack of structure and regulations, as well as trained personnel in biotechnoloy and biosafety. Two recommendations were made to deal with the constraints: the need to increase awareness of biosafety issues at policy-maker, scientist, public and private sector and consumer levels the need to strengthen the African capacity to deal with biotechnology and biosafety products through training, regional and international cooperation and to promote the establishment of national biosafety committees and focal points.
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Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation
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