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East African Community Consultative Workshop For Development of a Regional Biosafety Policy

Imperial Resort Beach Hotel, Entebbe, Uganda September 13th – 14th 2006

Background

In recognition of the potential gains from a harmonized regional biosafety policy and strategy, the East African Community (EAC) Council of Ministers of agriculture during a meeting held on 24th November 2004, established an EAC Partner States’ Technical Committee of Experts to address bio-safety issues on GMOs and recommended the development of an EA regional policy, legal and regulatory framework on GMOs as concerns food safety as well as environmental and public health.

EAC to establish a multi-sectorial Committee on modern biotechnology

In response to this recommendation, a consultative workshop was organized by the EAC Secretariat in collaboration with the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA) and the Program for Biosafety Systems, East Africa (PBS-EA). The main objective of the workshop was to share information on the biosafety frameworks as well as on the status of biotechnology research and development in the EAC member states and recommend a way forward for the development of a regional policy and regulatory framework on GMOs.

The workshop was attended by over 90 participants. The primary audience included members of parliament from the East African Legislative Assembly and the 3 EAC countries, officials from various national ministries, regulatory authorities research institutions as well as NGOs and farmer representatives. African Union and ASARECA countries outside the EA region were also represented.

After presentations and extensive discussions on the National Biosafety Frameworks, current biotechnology research and development systems as well as on the potential benefits and concerns of GMOs technologies, the participants made a number of recommendations towards the formulations of a Common Regional GMOs Policy for East Africa and provided suggestions for a way forward. Both short and long term recommendations were made along the areas of policy harmonisation, research and development as well as the regional biosafety regulatory framework. Some of the salient recommendations include:

  1. Policy on public awareness and participation at all stages of biotechnology application,
  2. Policy to enhance information sharing and networking including establishing a regional BCH,
  3. Establish EAC representation at international level treaties, conventions, protocols and agreements,
  4. Encourage EA countries to accelerate and finalise their biosafety frameworks,
  5. Establish food safety focal points in partner states,
  6. Harmonise Regional food safety systems to address analysis, inspection, monitoring etc to promote trade and establish guidelines to handle emergency food aid,
  7. Harmonization of Risk analysis and environmental safety assessment tools,
  8. Harmonize Curriculums on bio-safety, and
  9. EAC resource mobilization and sharing including human and infrastructure (Centres of excellence)
  10. EAC to establish a multi-sectorial Committee on modern biotechnology and set up a desk at the secretariat for immediate co-ordination, and implementation of the recommendations.