Functional biosafety systems enable safe development of biotechnology in Swaziland

A View of workshop participants

A View of workshop participants

NEPAD Agency ABNE in partnership with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Swaziland Environmental Authority organized a training workshop on Risk Analysis and Regulatory Compliance Monitoring and Inspection for GMOs, from 27-29 March, 2017 in Ezulwini, Swaziland.
The objectives of the training were to build capacity of the Swaziland Environmental Authority on Risk Analysis covering assessment, management and communication aspects. Twenty-five biosafety regulators and research officers took part in this training workshop.

In his official opening remarks Mr. Isaac Dladla, the Acting Executive Director of the Swaziland Environment Authority (SEA), described the training as timely coming at a time when Swaziland was preparing for a parliamentary hearing on the draft amended biosafety Act.
In his remarks, Seemilo Mavimbela, representing the Chairperson of the National Biosafety Advisory Council (NBAC), said his organization’s role was to advise SEA on biosafety issues to find a balance between environmental protection and the safe use of modern biotechnology. He said the NBAC had advised on the approval of field trials on Bt cotton in 2016 and thus the workshop would further enhance confidence for similar advice.

The Principal Program Officer at the NEPAD/ Africa Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), Dr. Silas Obukosia, underlined that Malawi, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Swaziland are in advanced stages of approving agri-biotech products. “This progress requires continuous regulatory capacity building, and this workshop is part of that capacity building objective in Swaziland,” he added.
COMESA Senior Biotechnology Policy Advisor Dr. Getachew Belay commended Swaziland for the progress it has made in creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment
The workshop included field visits to Bt cotton confined field trial sites at Malkerns Research Station and also at Big Bend experimental station and Buseleni cotton farms.
Swaziland started insect resistant Bt-cotton field trials in 2016 and the trials permits are valid until December 2017. The seed varieties used for the Bt trials are a local one called Alba plus and also Indian varieties and the trials would help evaluate gene efficacy and agronomic performances in local conditions. If these trials prove successful, Swaziland may go for Bt cotton general release and commercialization in the near future.