Workshop on GMO Dossier Review for African Regulators, and Launch of NEPAD-ABNE Biosafety Socioeconomic Resource Network
NEPAD Agency African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), in partnership with the Michigan State University (MSU), organized a 5-day workshop on GMO dossier review for African regulators from June 26 – 30, 2017 in Accra, Ghana. The workshop sought to technically capacitate participants in the evaluation of biosafety application dossiers to enable them make science-based recommendations for consideration by competent national authorities during decision-making. It was attended by biosafety regulators from eight African countries: Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Swaziland, and Uganda.
During a brief opening ceremony, Dr. Jeremy Ouedraogo, Head of NEPAD Agency ABNE stressed the importance of having functional biosafety systems noting that they would provide an adequate level of safety in accessing new beneficial products. He also noted that the meeting was a key step in creating a platform that will foster cooperation towards attaining future joint reviews and mutual recognition of environmental and food safety assessment reports within biosafety systems in regional economic communities. Michigan State University’s WorldTap Programme Director, Dr. Karim Maredia, in mentioning their long standing tradition of working with countries in Africa, pledged MSUs continued support in availing global resources to ensure a critical mass of assessors with the necessary skills and tools to be able to conduct science-based risk assessment on applications. At the end of the training participants indicated strengthened competencies in discharging their mandate.
Beyond the training, the resource networks from which participants were drawn – environmental biosafety and food safety resource networks – are expected to serve as support mechanisms for competent national authorities for biosafety and to foster linkages between African experts and other experts from around the world for resources, knowledge and experience sharing.
On the margins of the GMO dossier review workshop, NEPAD Agency ABNE also launched its fourth Experts’ Network, the Socioeconomic Resource Network. The launch was the outcome of a 2-day inception and planning meeting from June 28 – 29, 2017 that involved participants from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria.
In an opening speech, Dr. Jeremy Ouedraogo, Head of NEPAD Agency ABNE observed that networks had earlier been established for environmental safety, food safety, the legal aspects of biosafety and for Competent National Authorities for Biosafety. These networks have thus far served as platforms for sharing knowledge and best practices and also for providing support to competent national biosafety authorities. In addition, a steady pool of experts with requisite technical competencies is being developed in these specialized fields. Dr. Karim Maredia of Michigan State University reiterated the importance of harnessing expertise and resources both on the African continent and globally but in a manner that serves the continent’s best interests.
The NEPAD Agency ABNE Senior Programme Officer, Samuel Timpo, who is the Coordinator for this network, enumerated the objectives of the network including to advise African parties on critical considerations in implementing Article 26 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety; assist AU member states, upon request, in developing guidelines for the inclusion of SECs in biosafety decision-making; serve as a platform for multi-stakeholder engagement and interaction on managing biotechnology and stimulate a policy debate for increased awareness among key actors on their roles and responsibilities; and identify and raise awareness on critical biosafety issues in member states and regional economic blocs and also provide opportunity and context for expert-dialogue on policy options and to develop consensus action steps for policy development and implementation.
The next-in-line regarding establishment of resource networks is that for communication.