New briefing: Biosafety in Africa
Date : 14 July 2009
THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
Dear Friends and colleagues,
RE: New Briefing: Biosafety in Africa
The African Centre for Biosafety is pleased to share a new briefing paper: 'The Revised African Model Law on Biosafety and the African Biosafety Strategy’ by Haidee Swanby.
Haidee Swanby of the African Centre for Biosafety, attended a meeting hosted by the African Union during May 2009 in Arusha, Tanzania on various biosafety initiatives of importance to the continent. In this briefing paper, Haidee discusses the meeting and the issues and challenges lying ahead for the continent
The full text can be downloaded from:
With best wishes,
Third World Network
Website: www.biosafety-info.net and www.twnside.org.sg
South Africa threw caution to the wind and commercialised genetically modified (GM) maize in 1997 2 years before any national legislation to regulate biosafety came into force. The rest of Africa took a much more cautious stance; it would take 11 years for another African country to commercialise a GM crop, when Burkina Faso commercialised GM cotton in 2008. Other countries in Africa will now follow suit as the international community and agribusiness bully Africa into adopting GM technology in the face of a global food crisis and on the pretext of introducing GM climate crops. At the same time, 45 of the 52 African countries are now Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. These countries are in the process of developing or have completed their domestic legal frameworks to permit and regulate genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The continent is almost ripe for the mass sowing of GM seeds.
It is within this context that the African Union (AU) is revising the African Model Law on Biosafety and developing a 20 year African Biosafety Strategy, with the intention of harmonising biosafety laws and procedures as a clear priority. An industrial agriculture agenda is behind the harmonisation drive, heavily supported and pushed by amongst others, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank. The process also has the blessing of the AU and it is envisioned that the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), bodies that facilitate regional trade on the continent, will implement the African Biosafety Strategy. The major thrust of the Strategy is to harmonise laws and procedures for a pan-African biosafety system and to assist in the development of regional “centres of excellence”. The harmonisation of biosafety laws threatens to create a single GMO conveyor belt throughout Africa; a one-stop GMO approval system that bypasses case-by-case risk assessments and decision making on a country-by-country basis. Although there is strong political will within the AU to protect African biodiversity and society, powerful industry lobbyists are using the harmonisation process to build capacity and facilities for the advancement of GMOs on the continent, thereby paving the way for a corporate-friendly legislative environment.
Several meetings are being organised by the AU and hosted by the RECs in the run up to the next Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the Biosafety Protocol (MOP 5), to be held in Nagoya, Japan in October 2009. One of those preparatory meetings took place during the period 6-9 May 2009. The focus of the meetings was to present and discuss the African Strategy on Biosafety, the revision of the Model Law on Biosafety and mechanisms for harmonisation of biosafety procedures and legislation for the continent. The ACB was one of the few NGOs attending the meeting.
African Centre for Biosafety: www.biosafetyafrica.org.za