Information Sharing and Sensitization Seminar on Biotechnology and Biosafety for Members of Parliament in Senegal

From left to right are: Mr. Kasse Ousseynou, ANB Executive Director, Hon. Yero De, Chairman of the ANB Board, Hon. Mr. Cheikh Seck, MP, Chairman of the Parliament Select Committee for Development and Land Management, and Hon. Aissatou Sow Diawara, MP, Vice-Chair of the National Assembly

The National Biosafety Authority of Senegal, “Autorité Nationale de Biosécurité (ANB)”, in partnership with AUDA-NEPAD African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) organized an information sharing and sensitization seminar on biotechnology and biosafety for the Senegalese Members of Parliament (MPs), from 6 – 7 July, 2019, at Saly Portudal, M’bour region. .
The seminar aimed to equip the MPs with science-based information on modern biotechnology and biosafety and to provide an opportunity for them to hold preliminary discussions on the provisions on draft revised biosafety law that will be soon presented before the Parliament for adoption. We recall that the Government of Senegal, with the support of AUDA-NEPAD ABNE, started in 2015 the process of revising its 2009 biosafety law that was found to be limiting the functionality of the country biosafety system.

Up to forty (40) MPs effectively attended the seminar. In his opening remarks, Hon. Cheikh Seck, Chairman of the Select Committee stressed that “the precautionary principle which should have encouraged measured actions in the area of biotechnology has finally proven to be a principle of inaction. However, in order to face uncertainties, it is compelling to develop research programs in order to provide answers and lessen doubts. It is obvious that scientific evidence only remains the sources for relevant answers to unknowns. Therefore we should not hinder science for the sake of the comfort of maintaining status quo situations. It is then appears necessary, if not urgent, to revisit the Senegalese biosafety law in order to make it operational, implementable and efficient.”

View of the 40 Parliamentarians and their technical assistants attending the July 6 -7 seminar at Saly Portudal, Senegal

Sound scientists and biosafety experts from national institutions and from AUDA – NEPAD ABNE introduced key topics including key aspects on modern biotechnology, relevant provisions of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, risk analysis principles, key provisions of the Senegalese draft revised biosafety law, and a summary of the biosafety and biotechnology related initiatives going on in the continent and within the West Africa region.
Very enlightening discussions followed the introductory presentations, using mostly the locally commonly spoken languages, which allowed for active and effective participation from all MPs present. Relevant views were shared, that covered various areas of concerns. Special reference was made on the Bt cotton status in Burkina Faso and the country experience in dealing with modern biotechnology crops.
Answers provided by the experts greatly contributed to change positively the initial perceptions that most of the participants had on modern biotechnology and its applications.
The seminar ended on a very positive note with the MPs expressing their gratitude to ANB and AUDA-NEPAD for such a great opportunity given to them, for the first time, to interact and share views on this important subject matter. The general feeling was the readiness of the group of Parliamentarians to receive the draft revised biosafety law for examination. They have strongly recommended that the ANB and its partners namely AUDA-NEPAD make additional efforts to provide the same opportunity to the rest of MPS to benefit from the same level of information, so that the vast majority of the MPs gets ready to make informed decisions with respect to the passage of the revised biosafety law.