African positionongm os


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African positionongm os

  1. 1. AFRICAN UNION UNION AFRICAINE UNIÃO AFRICANA Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA P. O. Box 3243 Telephone: +251-11-5517700 Fax: +251-11-5517844 website: of African Union Ministers of AgricultureLibreville, GabonNovember 27-December 1, 2006 AN AFRICAN POSITION ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS IN AGRICULTURE
  2. 2. AN AFRICAN POSITION ON GMOs IN AGRICULTURE1. IntroductionThe advent of genetic engineering in agriculture has clearly changed the content and nature ofthe debate on how to respond to food insecurity and on how to achieve longer-termagricultural growth and food security. However, two extreme positions appear to polarize thedebate on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): the extreme pro-genetic engineering andextreme anti-genetic engineering positions. The extreme pro-genetic engineering groups tendto catalogue potential benefits of the technology and often dismiss any concerns aboutpotential risks. They tend to portray biotechnology as the panacea to combat food insecurityin Africa. On the other extreme are the anti-biotechnology activists who see no evidentbenefits and associate the technology with nothing but danger and risks. They would like thedevelopment, commercialisation and application of the technology stopped.The two extreme positions have tended to confuse many African policymakers and sectionsof the public because of the lack of reliable information and guidance available to thesegroups. There is uncertainty and confusion in many of the African governments’ responses toa wide range of social, ethical, environmental, trade and economic issues associated with thedevelopment and application of modern genetic engineering. The absence of an Africanconsensus and strategic approaches to address these emerging biotechnology issues hasallowed different interest groups to exploit uncertainty in policymaking, regardless of whatmay be the objective situation for Africa. Both pro and anti biotech advocacy groups canaffect African decision making adversely, as they portray agricultural opportunities inextremes, making it appear like it is an “either–or” situation.Agricultural biotechnology can be used to help farmers in African countries to produce moreby developing new crop varieties that are drought-tolerant and resistant to insects and weeds.Of course, thorough testing is necessary to ensure the safety of new crop varieties developedthrough biotechnology. Questions about safety must be addressed head-on, for people in bothAfrica and developed countries.African governments have recognized the importance of regional cooperation to addresspossibilities and the range of issues associated with biotechnology and genetic modification.It is in this context that the African Union (AU) resolved to take a common approach toaddress issues pertaining to modern biotechnology and biosafety by endorsing decisionEX.CL/Dec. 26 (III) that calls for an African common position on biotechnology. Inaddressing this issue, the AU Commission organized a workshop at the AU headquarters inAddis Ababa on October 17-19, 2006 to address the issues of GMOs in agriculture and try todevelop guidelines on the controversies, risks, challenges and myths surrounding the growthand development of biotechnology in Africa. The workshop was attended by approximately50 experts from various African countries and institutions including the Regional EconomicCommunities (RECs,) research institutions, civil society organizations, farmers associations,universities, the private sector and other stakeholders. Presentations from the RECs indicateda diverse set of policy guidelines and approaches tailored to each of their needs. Thedeliberations and recommendations of the workshop are presented in this report. 1
  3. 3. 2. Context and ScopeIn many parts of the world, the adoption of genetically modified crops has been on a steadyrise since 1995 when these crops were first planted. Revolutionary advances in modernbiotechnology and especially genetic modification (GM) technology are being exploited intoa multi-million dollar industry especially in the field of agriculture and pharmaceuticals.Some of the leading countries in this trend have been the USA, Argentina, Canada and Braziland there are new ones such as China and India. Since the initial commercialisation oftransgenic crops in 1996, global planted area of biotech crops has soared by more than fifty-fold from 1.7 million hectares in six countries to 81 million hectares in 21 countries in 2004.A summary of the global overview of GM crop statistics indicates that Africa is laggingbehind other continents in embracing this science to address its food security needs. It is clearthat this trend will continue and Africa needs to develop mechanisms to address thesedevelopments.The scope of this report is to provide guiding principles to Member States and RegionalEconomic Communities (RECs) as they address the issues of GMOs in relation to agriculture.The application of biotechnology in Africa in general has been discussed in its broad scopeby other African initiatives such as the High Level Panel on Biotechnology. In developingthese guiding principles or recommendations, the workshop participants identified thefollowing underlying issues as basic considerations: • In Africa the majority of farmers are small holder farmers; • These new technologies should focus on solving African problems as identified from the African perspective and should not be imposed on Africa from elsewhere; • The GE technologies should build on and complement local knowledge/technologies that have been used to breed crops over many years and to develop technologies suited to the local environment; • The GE technologies should also focus on indigenous African crops such as yams, sorghum, potatoes, etc. and not only on commercial crops such as maize and cotton; • It is imperative to conserve and protect indigenous genetic resources; • Biotechnology is an expensive technology and should therefore focus on where there’s a comparative advantage and its development should be a selective process that targets the most efficient sector; • African governments and RECs should allocate adequate resources to this process.3. African Initiatives and Processes on BiotechnologyThere are currently numerous initiatives and processes being undertaken on the Africancontinent to address the issues of GMOs and biotechnology. In order to have a goodunderstanding of these initiatives and processes, presentations were made by the respectiveinstitutions at the different levels (continental/AU and REC level). The presentations aresummarised below.3.1 High Level African Panel on Biotechnology (APB)In the context of addressing the AU decision that calls for an African common position onbiotechnology, the AU established a High Level Panel on Biotechnology to advise it onmatters of Biotechnology. This panel is composed of eminent African personalities from awide background. Below are the terms of reference for this panel. 2
  4. 4. Mandate of the APB:The High Level African Panel on Biotechnology will advise the AU, its Member States andits various organs, on current and emerging issues associated with the development andapplication of modern biotechnology. Its specific remit is to provide the AU and NEPADwith independent and strategic advice on developments in modern biotechnology and itsimplications for agriculture, health and the environment. It will focus on intra-regional andinternational issues of regulating the development and application of genetic modificationand its products.The High Level Panel (APB) has held several meetings and has developed a draft reportentitled “Biotechnology in Africa’s Development”. The report presents the role of modernbiotechnology in the transformation of African economies. It examines how a wide range ofopportunities presented by the technology that can be tapped by African countries. It focuseson how best to build the capacity needed to harness and apply the technology to improveagricultural productivity, public health, increase industrial development and economiccompetitiveness and promote environmental sustainability in Africa. The report also takesinto account the importance of promoting the conservation and sustainable utilization ofAfrica’s biodiversity. The main message of this report is that regional economic integration inAfrica should embody the building and accumulation of capacities to harness and governmodern biotechnology. Regional economic integration can be an institutional vehicle formobilizing, sharing and using existing scientific and technological capacities, includinghuman and financial resources as well as physical infrastructure for biotechnology R&D andinnovation.3.2 African Strategy on BiosafetyThe African Union Commission is also developing an African Strategy on Biosafety with themain objective of: • providing Member States with a framework for regional, sub regional and national initiatives in bio-safety; • guiding and promoting regional coordination and harmonization of biosafety within the continent; and • enhancing regional capacity on biosafety.The Strategy aims at guiding modern biotechnology developments at national, sub-regionaland regional (Africa-wide) levels, as well as providing guidance on how Africa deals with therest of the world, especially during international negotiation forums of relevance to biosafety.The Strategy targets the national and sub-regional levels for planned interventions to beundertaken by the AU and its member states to ensure harmony in modern biotechnology andbiosafety. The main target for implementation of the strategy shall be the five sub-regions ofAfrica. However, the existing Regional Economic Communities (RECs), where they arealready doing work related to biosafety, or interlinking trade and biosafety shall be used tocomplement rather than undermine each other.To ensure cost effectiveness and encourage South-South cooperation, the Strategy aims atcreating and strengthening regional centres of excellence in both modern biotechnology andbiosafety, at least one in each of the five sub-regions of Africa. These will play an importantrole in risk assessment, risk management, capacity building, as well as GMO testing andprovision of any other relevant biosafety advice. 3
  5. 5. The strategy is centred on six pillars namely: (i) Establishment and Strengthening of Institutional Frameworks; (ii) Awareness Raising and Biosafety Information Exchange; (iii) Capacity Building and Preparedness for Negotiations; (iv) Policy and Legal Frameworks; (v) International Cooperation; (vi) Sustainability Mechanism.Each of the above pillars has clearly defined actions to be undertaken for its implementation;with proposals on who will undertake them and how they will be undertaken. To ensure thatthe strategy remains relevant over the changing times and circumstances, provision is madefor its regular review to ensure it remains up to date.3.3 Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) InitiativesThe Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is one of the first RECs to developguidelines to address issues of GMOs and Biotechnology. Due to the 2002 regional foodcrisis, the SADC Council of Ministers at their meeting of October 2002 in Luanda, Angoladirected the SADC Secretariat to establish a SADC Advisory Committee on Biotechnologyand Bio-safety (SACBB). This Committee was launched in 2003 and since its inauguration ithas advised SADC policy makers on several occasions and has also produced guidelines forthe region in a brochure entitled “SADC Guidelines on GMOs, Biotechnology andBiosafety”. The Guidelines focus on 4 general areas: (i) Handling of Food Aid; (ii) Policy and Regulations; (iii) Capacity Building; and (iv) Public Awareness and Participation3.4 Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) InitiativesThe Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa COMESA has also initiated a processto address the issues of GMOs and biotechnology. In November 2002 in Kampala theCOMESA agricultural ministers agreed to create a regional policy on GMOs. COMESA thenapproached the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research for Eastern and CentralAfrica (ASARECA) for technical support and guidance. This resulted in the formation of aproject called RABESA in 2003 to generate and analyse information that can informCOMESA/ASARECA countries on regional biotechnology and biosafety policies especiallyon how they may impact trade, food security and access to emergency food aid. This processculminated in a COMESA Regional Workshop on Biotechnology and Biodiversity in May2006 where the following draft Regional Position on Biotechnology and Biosafety wasadopted by the workshop. This position is yet to be endorsed by the relevant COMESApolicy organs. GMO Entity Appropriate Option Reasons AdvancedCommercial planting centralized regional • standardized and more assessment, national transparent decision-making • cost effective • sharing of resources, information and expertiseCommercial trade policy advice/information from • regional level 4
  6. 6. central regional clearing assessment is cost house, national decision effective • cooperation in assessing issues • assures national commitment • information sharing • capacity buildingFood aid policy guidelines developed at • facilitates transit of regional level, decision to be food aid in taken at the country level on neighbouring states case by case basis • facilitates provision of food to the needy3.5 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) InitiativesA number of initiatives have been undertaken in the ECOWAS region in collaboration withits technical partners, CORAF/WECARD (West African Centre for Agricultural Researchand Development) and CILSS (Comite Permanent Inter-Etats De Lutte Contre LaSecheresse). An initial regional Conference on “The Utilization of Science and Technologyto Increase Agricultural Productivity in Africa” was held in June 2004 in Ouagadougou,Burkina Faso. The objective of this first meeting was aimed at making participantsunderstand biotechnology and its potential applications for improving African agriculture. Asubsequent conference of the Ministers in Charge of Science and Technology was held inAbuja in November 2004 with the theme of “Agriculture and Biotechnology”. Thesemeetings and workshops culminated in the Ministerial Conference of ECOWAS States onBiotechnology, in June 2005 in Bamako, Mali. The objective of the conference was to adoptthe recommendations proposed by the Ouagadougou Conference. The conference madeseveral recommendations under the following headings: (i) The development and use of biotechnologies; (ii) A regional approach for biosafety; (iii) An information and communication strategy and policy in biotechnology; (iv) The institutionalisation of a ministerial conference on biotechnology.3.6 East African Community (EAC) InitiativesThe East African Community (EAC) Council of Ministers at its 9th regular meeting that washeld on 24th November 2004 established an EAC Partner States’ Regional TechnicalCommittee of Experts to address bio-safety issues on Genetically Modified Organisms(GMOs) and recommend a common way forward for the development of an EAC regionalpolicy, legal and regulatory framework on GMOs especially as regards food security, trade,public health and environmental issues in East Africa.In response to the call by the EAC Council of Ministers for technical guidance on a commonGMOs biosafety policy for the region, the EAC organized a workshop under the theme “TheEAC Regional Stakeholders Consultative Workshop to Develop a Draft Common RegionalPolicy on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)” in September 2006, in Entebbe,Uganda. The workshop was jointly organized by ASARECA, Program for Biosafety Systemsin East Africa (PBS-EA) and the East African Community. The main objectives of thisregional workshop were to review EAC National Biosafety Frameworks for Genetically 5
  7. 7. Modified Organisms (GMOs) and recommend the way forward for the development of anEAC regional policy, legal and regulatory framework on GMOs with a focus on food safety,trade, environmental and public health issues.The workshop made various recommendations towards the formulation of a CommonRegional GMO Policy for East Africa under the following headings: (i) Policy Harmonization in Biosafety; (ii) Research and Development; (iii) Regional Regulatory Approach.3.7 African Model LawAlthough there was no formal presentation on the African Model Law, it was discussedduring the various presentations. The African Union put in place the African Model Law onSafety in Biotechnology to help member countries in drafting their national legislation, and isdeveloping a strategic framework to guide member states and the region in the development,handling and use of modern biotechnology to ensure the safety of the rich natural resourcebase (biodiversity) as well as the peoples’ health and socio-economic well-being.Acknowledging the common priorities of African countries, the current status of developmentof modern biotechnology and the controversial legal issues related to Biosafety, the revisionof the African Model Law on Safety in Biotechnology is therefore underway.4. Recommendations for an African Position on GMOsFollowing discussions on all the presentations made, the workshop participants adopted thefollowing recommendations:4.1 Information Sharing, Access and Public Awareness and Participation (i) Create an African Member State Database on biotechnology information (regulatory policies, IPRs, etc.) for sharing and documenting best practises/lessons learned through Bio-safety Clearing Houses. (ii) Encourage Member States to provide information regularly to the institution maintaining the database. (iii) Establish a forum/advisory body on biotechnology that would meet regularly to deliberate and advise the AU on biotechnology and bio-safety issues (iv) Call on Member States to establish inter-ministerial (Agriculture, Science and Technology, Environment, Trade etc.) task forces to coordinate and ensure coherence in biotechnology policies at national, regional and sub-regional levels. (v) Promote a Strategy for Public Awareness and Participation in decision-making processes on bio-safety (in accordance with Art. 23 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety) to dispel the myths and controversies surrounding bio-safety and biotechnologies. (vi) Engage both those who support and oppose biotechnologies in the awareness campaign. (vii) Governments and civil societies should play a role in enlightening the public on issues involved in biotechnology (encourage dialogue in modern biotechnology issues) (viii) AU facilitates mechanisms between and among the RECs for information sharing towards a harmonized position 6
  8. 8. 4.2 Research and Development (i) Encourage and support policies of member States on Research and Development on biotechnology and bio-safety to develop local products and address local problems. (ii) Encourage Member States to allocate funds for R&D on bio-safety and biotechnology. (iii) Call on the African Union to assist African regions and Member States in setting policy priorities in biosafety and biotechnology. (iv) Encourage the use of existing platforms (such as sub-regional and regional platforms) in implementing biosafety and biotechnology initiatives. (v) Encourage and enhance policies for technology development and transfer. (vi) Foster the development of centres of excellence in bioscience R&D at the regional levels.4.3 Capacity Building4.3.1 Scientific Capacity (i) Encourage Member States to develop policies that enhance training in biosafety and biotechnology. (ii) Encourage/enhance policy development to facilitate scientific research and compensate scientists adequately to retain them in Africa. (iii) Enhance scientific capacity of institutions operating on issues of bio-safety and biotechnology4.3.2 Regulatory Institutions (i) Develop policies for on-the-job training on the safe management of biotechnology. (ii) Establish regional GMO testing laboratories by developing norms and standards. (iii) Promote policies to enhance and encourage public-private partnerships in biotechnology. (iv) Encourage the development of policies that enhance Member States’ regulatory capacity on issues of biosafety and biotechnology. (v) Encourage Member States to have comprehensive risk assessment and risk management plans in regulatory regimes before the introduction of modern biotechnology and in compliance with the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety.4.3.3 Food Safety (CPB and Codex Guidelines) (i) Encourage Member States to strengthen and improve their food safety policies on analysis, inspection and monitoring and mandatory labelling in accordance with the standards of CODEX Alimentarius. (ii) Encourage labelling of GMOs in the regulatory regimes of Member States4.3.4 Trade Issues/International Treaties (capacity building.) (i) Develop policies that enhance the internal, technical and legal capacities in negotiation in the area of biosafety and biotechnology. (ii) Call upon the AU to support the African Group at international negotiations to come up with harmonized/common positions.4.4 Intellectual Property Rights (i) AU and Member States should support and enhance the capacity of ARIPO and OAPI and especially national IP offices to deal with the patents protecting the components used in Genetic Engineering and bio-piracy issues. 7
  9. 9. (ii) Africa does not support the patenting of life forms, in line with the African position at the WTO that patenting of life forms should be prohibited. (iii) Encourage the characterization of African genetic resources (including through DNA fingerprinting) to allow their better utilization and protection from bio-piracy (iv) The workshop recommended the hastening of the domestication of the African Model law on community knowledge and community rights and access to genetic resources4.5 Harmonization of Regional Economic Community Initiatives (i) AU should encourage and facilitate dialogue between RECs on efforts/positions and ensures harmonised policies on bio-safety and biotechnology. (ii) AU should facilitate the recognition of RECs in international treaties, agreements and conventions. (iii) AU should establish task force(s) that will identify key issues of particular interest for Africa and facilitate the formulation of a common position by Member States and by RECs4.6 Food Aid (i) Encourage guidelines to be developed at the regional level but decision to be taken at the country level on a case-by-case basis. (ii) AU respects Member States’ position on GM food aid.4.7 Trade Issues (i) Advice and information on GMOs should be obtained through the Regional Clearing House but decisions and implementation should be taken at the national level (ii) The AU should set up mechanisms of identifying commonalities among the RECs on the basis of which to harmonise and coordinate policies on bio-safety and biotechnology. (iii) AU should respect Member States’ decisions on trade issues on biotechnology and biosafety. (iv) Member States should respect the decisions/positions of neighbouring countries on GMOs and should restrict their GMOs or products within their own borders (Art. 17 and 25 of the CPB), taking into account the importance of taking reasonable measures to avoid damage to neighbouring countries where it can be avoided (v) Encourage Member States and the RECs to institutionalise science based decision making mechanisms, risk assessment and risk management to facilitate trade4.8 Dispute Settlement/Compensation/Liability and Redress Rules (i) Encourage recognition of the national mechanisms of dispute settlement within the bio-safety frameworks of countries (ii) Encourage Member States to participate in negotiations on liability and redress (iii) AU member states should be encouraged to adopt a Common African Position on liability and redress to the effect that damage and loss should be reasonably insured against where feasible and that parties responsible for the damage and loss should be under an obligation to provide meaningful compensation.4.9 Biodiversity (i) Encourage research on local resources (ii) Encourage Member States to strengthen action on conservation of genetic resources. (iii) There is a need to create protected areas or GMO free zones where the release of GMOs in Africa will be prohibited. Communities, Local Governments, States, and Regions should commence processes by which they can regulate or declare 8
  10. 10. themselves GMO free. Therefore Member States should develop policies to respect community rights to declare GMO free and seed diverse zones in accordance with CPB Art. 26 (iv) Agricultural policies should complement the Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (v) Member States should be encouraged to characterise and make inventories of their genetic resources so as to protect their plant biodiversity, the life styles of local and indigenous communities and also to curb bio-piracy.4.10 International Collaboration and PartnershipsThere is a need for AU to play a role in coordinating international collaboration in particularto create mechanisms to: (i) Tap on African Diaspora to enhance capacity in modern biotechnology (ii) Encourage international collaboration (north-south and south-south) (iii) Encourage Public Private Partnership (PPP) (iv) Access Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) (v) Share information where there are needs of collaboration with international partners (vi) Collaboration with Civil Society and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) (vii) Consolidate and coordinate donors inputs including setting the African agenda with them.5. ConclusionsAmong some of the concerns in these discussions was the low African use of modernbiotechnology, the misconceptions surrounding the potentials of biotechnology and the needto establish bio-safety systems in Africa.In its policy guidelines, AU should guide member states in the following areas • Establish mechanism for public awareness • Develop sustainable African strategy on bio-safety (build capacities and task forces) • Create enabling conditions for application of biotechnology (encourage dialogue among the various Ministries and all stakeholders involved) • Establish mechanism to facilitate harmonization of regulatory systems • Strengthen African capacity for effective participation in international negotiations • The African National Bio-safety Frameworks of Member States can only be achieved through effective collaboration among Policy makers, researchers, farmers, service providers, civil society organizations, African leaders and development partners. 9