Sensitization and Awareness Creation Workshop on Biosafety for Lawyers in Malawi

NEPAD Agency ABNE, in collaboration with the National Biosafety Regulatory Agency of Malawi, organized a sensitization and awareness creation workshop on biosafety for Lawyers in Malawi, on 6 November, 2018, in Lilongwe.

This capacity building initiative is subsequent to a visit by ABNE’s technical team in the country in September, 2018, during which members of the Parliament’s committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, requested NEPAD Agency ABNE to support the country in the creation of sensitization and awareness for targeted stakeholders who matter as the country gets along the process of de-regularization of the Bt. cotton. Hence, the reason for considering the lawyers constituency as one of the key stakeholders.

Group picture of participants

The prime objective of this activity was to sensitize the lawyers on a broad range of issues on biosafety and to raise awareness on agricultural biotechnology and its safe application as guided by international legal instruments. It was also the objective of the meeting to introduce the lawyers to the Biosafety Regulatory landscape in Africa and the Biosafety Regulatory approaches and system in Malawi and also aspects of Intellectual Property and Technology transfer in relation to Agricultural Biotechnology.

The participants were drawn from Government Ministries and National Agencies such Attorney General’s Chambers, and Department Justice, Directorates of civil litigation and Public Prosecution, Environmental Agency, Agriculture Department, Customs, Standard Setting Agency, Human Rights Department, the first Parliamentary counsel and legislative drafting office. All the expected 20 attorneys were in attendance.

During the meeting, presentations were made on the basics of biotechnology and biosafety. The lawyers were also introduced to GMO associated litigations from some African countries and elsewhere. Intellectual Property issues regarding the technology were also introduced to the participant to enable them to appreciate aspects of technology transfer and understand the shortfalls of most developing countries in lack of the required IP management capacity and resources to perform product clearance analyses and evaluations that facilitate the legitimate import, use and/or export of products from these technologies.

A view of part of participants during the presentations

The one day sensitization and awareness workshop was a success. The voices of appreciation were loud from the participants and Government officials who graced the meeting. The call from the participants and officials for more training opportunities in biosafety regulation for the lawyers was not misplaced either. As the country ventures into the last lap of de-regularization of the Bt. Cotton, the lawyers’ constituency in Malawi should be considered to be a very important point in facilitating that process and to even play an important role at the post de-regularization stage, to ensure that Malawi safely harness this technology opportunity for its socio-economic development.