THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
29 January 2004
Dear Friends and colleagues,
An expert group recently convened under the auspices of the African Union to formulate African policies on biodiversity, biotechnology and biosafety has called on member states to consider a moratorium on the introduction of GMOs in the continent, until adequate capacity is achieved.
The group also tackled biosafety regulatory issues and recommends that African countries take full advantage of the African Model Law on Safety in Biotechnology in the formulation of effective national laws on biosafety. It also urged countries to continue to work together within the African Group to resolve the outstanding issues still to be negotiated under the Biosafety Protocol, especially the speedy establishment of a comprehensive and robust liability and redress regime.
We attach below a report of the meeting and recommendations received from Mariam Mayet of the African Centre on Biosafety.
With best wishes,
Lim Li Lin and Chee Yoke Heong
Third World Network
121-S Jalan Utama
AFRICAN UNION BIOSAFETY EXPERT COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS MORATORIUM ON GMOS
During 12-16 January 2004, a group of intra-African experts, including representation from civil society, gathered together in Calavi, Benin, under the auspices of the African Union’s Scientific, Technical and Research Commission (Commission), in a first, albeit overdue, critically important step towards laying the groundwork for common African policies on issues concerning biodiversity, genetic engineering (GE) and biosafety. The convening of the expert group was specifically sanctioned by a decision of the Heads of State of the member states of the African Union’s (AU) at its Summit held in Maputo, Mozambique, during July 2003, when it was given an explicit mandate to come up with proposals for an African Common Position for adoption by the policy organs of the AU.
After 4 days of rich and diverse discussions, the expert committee agreed on a number of recommendations regarding biosafety on the African continent. Amongst these recommendations, the committee expressly recommended the need for its member states to consider a moratorium on GMO introduction until adequate capacity had been built.
The Committee also tackled biosafety regulatory issues. Taking its lead from the Head of States decision at the AU Summit in Maputo, the Committee recommends that African countries take full advantage of the African Model Law on Safety in Biotechnology in the formulation of effective national laws on biosafety.
The Committee also took cognisance of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the need for its implementation. It also encourages Member States to continue to work together within the African Group to resolve the outstanding issues still to be negotiated under the aegis of the Protocol, especially the speedy establishment of a comprehensive and robust liability and redress regime.
Mindful of the fact that GE is also used in medical applications, the Committee recommends that ‘the African Initiative’ be reactivated to deal with issues of bio-ethics especially cloning, intellectual property rights and the patenting of life forms.
The deliberations and recommendations of the export committee will be presented at a follow up meeting of the member states of the AU as well as civil society in approximately 6 months time, in order to take the process further.
African Centre for Biosafety
AUSTRC INTER-AFRICAN EXPERT COMMITTEE WORKSHOP ON BIODIVERSITY, BIOTECHNOLOGY AND BIOSAFETY
IITA BIOLOGICAL CONTROL STATION, CALAVI,
REPUBLIC OF BENIN 12 - 16 JANUARY, 2004
1. Biodiversity and biotechnology are intricately related in achieving sustainable development and guaranteeing food security and poverty eradication in Africa. Biotechnology is a tool for sustainable management and conservation of biodiversity while biosafety is a mechanism for ensuring safe use of biotechnology. Consequently, it is essential that biodiversity, biotechnology and biosafety are considered in an integrated manner for policy formulation and development in Africa. Some priority areas include:
a) Agricultural biodiversity (including crops, livestock and fishes);
b) Microbial diversity;
c) Forest diversity;
d) Adequate understanding of Indigenous knowledge on biotic resources with a view to domesticating and exploiting neglected and/or underutilized species for agricultural, medicinal and industrial purposes;
e) New and renewable sources of energy.
2. There is a special need for capacity building and strengthening in biodiversity, biotechnology and biosafety in Africa. Some priority areas include:
a) Biosystematics (Taxonomy) and infrastructure for ex-situ conservation (e.g. Herbaria, Natural History Museums, Gene Banks, standard Type Collection for microorganisms);
b) Tissue and cell culture plus micro-propagation;
c) Molecular genetics, especially genomics (diagnostics);
e) Biosafety legal framework including risk assessment, monitoring, evaluation, pest resistance management strategies, environmental impact assessment and enforcement.
3. Member States should be encouraged to continue to work together within the
African Group to resolve the outstanding issues still to be negotiated under the Biosafety Protocol, especially the speedy establishment of a comprehensive and robust liability and redress regime.
4. Establish Centres of Excellence in selected priority research areas to facilitate
R&D, and put in place appropriate machinery to link research with the private sector to the point of commercialization.
5. Reactivate the African Initiative to deal with issues of bio-ethics, especially on cloning, intellectual property rights and patenting of life forms.
6. AU having entrusted STRC with the coordination and promotion of science
and technology for development in the continent, should ensure that all initiatives with respect to biodiversity, biotechnology and biosafety are appropriately channeled through the STRC for coordination along with the AU Headquarters.
7. Establish networks in biodiversity, biotechnology and biosafety for the
following purposes :
Implementing the CBD and the Cartagena Protocol. African countries in this respect should take advantage of the African Model Law on the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities, Farmers and Breeders; and the African Model Law on Safety in Biotechnology to formulate effective national laws on biodiversity and biosafety respectively.
· Continuous information exchange among countries and awareness creation on biosafety in biodiversity and biotechnology.
· Ensuring an African Common Position.
8. Biodiversity, biotechnology and biosafety issues cut across different Government Ministries. Every member state is therefore urged to set up a coordinating mechanism to ensure that the various Ministries are actively involved in an integrated manner in policy issues and implementation.
9. There is a need to consider a moratorium on GMO introduction until adequate within country capacity has been built.