Based on their request, AUDA NEPAD assisted the Niger Ministry of Environment, Urban Health and Sustainable Development and the Centre for Strategic Studies and Security (CNESS) to organise a Stakeholder Seminar on biotechnology, biosafety and biosecurity, on 22 June 2019, in Niamey.
This one-day meeting aimed to inform and sensitize stakeholders from various institutions about the requirements for a functional biosafety system and what needs to be achieved in the country to enable functionality of the national regulatory system. It also sought to provide technical backstopping to the biosafety regulators from the Ministry of Environment to develop top priority regulatory tools including implementing instruments and application forms for import/export of food and feed derived from modern biotechnology.
The morning session which constituted the sharing information and sensitization component of the seminar gathered around 50 regulators and scientists from government institutions and their partner organisations.
Dr Moussa Savadogo, AUDA-NEPAD Principal Programme Officer and Dr Zaki Gado, Focal Point of the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety at the Ministry of Environment shared up-to-date information with the participants, with regard to the functionality of a biosafety system, the satus of the national biosafety draft bill and on the West Africa regional harmonised biosafety framework.
The afternoon session gathered a focused group of national experts assigned to draft priority regulatory tools for the country. With the assistance of the AUDA-NEPAD biosafety expert, the group was able to develop three draft legal instruments one for the implementation of the scientific biosafety advisory committee, the second to guide the biosafety risk assessment process, and the third one to lay down the requirements for import / export of food and feed derived from modern biotechnology.
At the end of the sensitization session, participants commended the organisers for the quality of the information shared and acknowledged that this meeting was an eye-opener to all of them.
Participants share their views.Prof Sidikou Ramatou Djermakoye Seyni, Professor-researcher at Abdou Moumouni University of Niamey, Director General of the Center for Scientific Research of Niger.
“This meeting is really welcome as I have been waiting for such an opportunity for so long. So far there has been a lot of misinformation about biotechnology and biosafety in Niger and such a meeting helps to restore the reality of things. Niger has wasted a lot of time due to misinformation about biotechnology but better late than never. It is now time for Nigeriens to get into the innovation and technology train.
Niger as a country faces various needs. First generation of biotechnology could initially be used to clean up all crops that are sensitive to pathogens, particularly to viruses. We all know that plant viral diseases can only be treated by selecting cleaned stems followed by bio-propagation. It is urgent to solve these crop protection problems so that we can be able to grow crops that we need for our people and our development. ”
Ranaou Maazou, Specialized Agronomist in Plant Protection, Focal Point of the Sahelian Committee on Pesticides, implementing body for pesticide regulation in the 13 CILSS member countries.
“This training workshop has strengthened our capabilities in biotechnology and biosafety and will enable us to develop a strategy on biosecurity, taking into account food safety. We have a biosafety bill that is in the pipeline for adoption by the Parliament and we are hopeful that this can be achieved very soon and thus strengthen our biosafety legislation. Experts from the research institutions as well as from the legislative and political arenas are involved , and once the law is adopted, they are ready to work together to complete the regulatory system through the development of implementing guidelines and other instruments, taking into account, in particular, the institutional requirements as well and the human resources needed to fully implement the national system. ”
This meeting was really necessary as it dealt with issues we did not know. Particularly with regard to biotechnology and biosafety; our misunderstanding have now been overcome as we have had the opportunity to share knowledge with international experts on these issues. We were aware of the subject matter and wanted to have much information but we did not have the time to do the necessary research to access the needed information. Now, we have got so much information delivered in a very effective manner by the AUDA-NEPAD expert. I particularly appreciated the information on the regulatory framework for biosafety in Niger and in particular the new law that is about to be adopted and that could allow to move positively in many aspects. Exchanges on GMOs have also been very rewarding. It is really a subject of actuality, and very often we have been facing questions which we always tend to run away from because we don’t have much information and cannot provide the right answers. The issue is however real and we need to talk openly about it”.