NEPAD Agency ABNE implements a study tour to India

NEPAD Agency ABNE in partnership with Michigan State University (MSU), the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Bejo Sheetal Biosciences Foundation (BSBF) in India successfully implemented a 10-day study tour program from January 17 – 27, 2016 for 14 delegates from 9 ABNE focus countries in Africa. The study tour program was implemented at three locations in India – New Delhi, Aurangabad/Jalna, and Hyderabad in collaboration with public and private sector institutions.

The main Objective of this study was to share information on biotechnology and biosafety developments in India with special emphasis on regulatory experiences of Bt cotton and other food crops that are in the research and development pipeline. The study tour also aimed at providing opportunities for regulators and policy makers from Africa to interact with biosafety regulators, policy makers and industry representatives from India.

Participants from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda and Zambia shared biosafety and regulatory Information and experience. In a roundtable meeting on India – Africa collaboration, Dr Silas Okobusia and Dr Moussa Savadogo representing NEPAD Agency ABNE presented an overview of the agricultural biosafety regulatory regimes in African countries and highlighted areas for partnership with India. From the Indian part, key presentations in various meetings came from the National Regulatory body, in the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (MEFCC)The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), , South Asia Biotechnology Centre, the Indian Council for Food and Agriculture (ICFA), and the Institute of Biotechnology (IoB).

Group photo of participants

The team had particularly the opportunity to interact with India regulators represented by Dr Ranjini Warrier, Director, Ministry of Environment and Forest. She presented the regulatory frameworks of India and expressed the willingness of her institution to share with Africa regulatory publications. It was worth learning that the Government of India not only regulates modern biotechnology but also promotes it through granting appropriate funding. Biotechnology is considered here as part of the means to achieve national priorities including food security.
Participants also visited 7 seed companies in India namely Rasi Seeds (P) Ltd, JK Agri Genetics Ltd. (Jkal), Nath Bio- Genes (I) Ltd, Advanta Limited, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd and Kalash Seeds Private Limited. This was a great opportunity to see India’s leap in the technology area especially in the sectors of hybrid seeds and GM seeds, diagnostics kits for GMO detection and agricultural genomics research. India has become the largest producer and exporter of cotton globally surpassing China because of using Bt technology in hybrid cotton. The country is experiencing a new agricultural revolution through improved seeds. Over 500 seed companies including multinationals are currently operating in the country, developing biotech and hybrid seeds for Indian small scale farmers. The representatives of the seed companies assured participants they were very willing to transfer these technologies to Africa.

Participants visiting a seed company

This study tour really enabled participants to learn a lot of the India biosafety regulatory framework and opportunities for collaboration. The visit and interactions also brought about several opportunities for networking. These networking opportunities will be implemented at different levels between member states regulatory bodies and Indian Institutions. Operationalization of these linkages could start with developing Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs), funding proposals and exchange visits.
From the discussions, it appeared that India represents a huge market for pulses and oil crops estimated a value of $10 billion that Africa can tap in through production and trading.