Regional Experts of biosafety commenced a meeting on 14th May 2019 in Abuja, Nigeria, with the aim of validating the preliminary draft of the regulations on biotechnological risk prevention in West Africa.
The meeting comprising of experts from the Commission of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Economic Monetary Union (WAEMU) and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) precedes a sectorial meeting of Ministers in charge of biosafety for technical validation.
The ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Sékou Sangaré stated that the adoption of the draft regulations on biotechnological risk will provide the region with a uniform biosafety regulation.
Commissioner Sangaré stressed that the regulations are important in order to address issues related to the use of modern biotechnologies and their potential impact on the environment, human and animal health, socio-economic aspects and food security in the region.
Furthermore, the regulations will address the weak technical, institutional and regulatory capacities of the Member States to manage these issues.
The Commissioner mentioned that, “It is for these reasons that three institutions, ECOWAS, WAEMU and CILSS, agreed to lead a joint process towards the development and validation of a single biosafety legal framework for West Africa”.
Also addressing the experts during the meeting, Nigeria’s Minister of Environment, Suleman Hassan Zarma added that solving these problems require a collaborative effort in the region.
The Minister described science and technology as major drivers of change in ensuring biosafety and highlighted biotechnology as a means through which Africa’s potential can be unlocked.
“Biotechnology has the ability to enhance green economy, agricultural productivity, sustenance of biodiversity and economic growth if well regulated”, he said.
The Director General of the Institut du Sahel (INSAH), Dr. Mohamed Abdallahi Ebbe identified the implementation of the international binding Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) which seeks to ensure the safer transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology which may potentially have adverse effects on biodiversity and human health as an important step towards ensuring biosafety.
The regulation on biotechnological risk prevention in West Africa is being developed due to the multiplicity of initiatives on the subject by ECOWAS, WAEMU and CILSS.