Africa Regional

Comments on COMESA’s Draft Policy on GMOs

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) was very recently handed a copy of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa‘s (COMESA) ‘Draft policy statements and guidelines for commercial planting of GMOs, Trade in GMOs and Emergency Food aid with GMO content’. Having perused the policy we are alarmed and outraged that COMESA appears to support the undermining and displacing of more than a decade’s worth of international, regional and national biosafety policies and legislation. It is the ACB‘s opinion that a small group of experts closely aligned to the Biotechnology, seed and agrochemical industry, frustrated by the lack of GMO adoption in African markets, drafted the policy behind closed doors. Stakeholders whose interests will be adversely affected by the far reaching proposals within the policy have been completely excluded from the process.

Further, it seeks to usurp the biosafety policy space of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (the pre-eminent international treaty on the cross border movement of GMOs), regional policies on food aid and the sovereign rights of COMESA member states. We implore COMESA members to reject the policy out of hand at their next meeting, scheduled to take place from the 12th

On- going Concerns about Harmonisation of Biosafety Regulations in Africa

The paper is a response to concerns raised by the African Union‘s Biosasfety Unit about assertions made in an earlier briefing in June 2009 regarding the African Union‘s biosafety harmonisation processes.

In this briefing the Ms Swanby on behalf of the ACB salutes the initiatives taken by the AU in the biosafety discourse on the continent to date, including the early harmonisation attempts by its predecessor, the Organisation of African Union (OAU) to put in place a Model Law on Safety in Biotechnology. At that time, the OAU’s harmonisation approach was to bring about a consistent African approach to biosafety regulation based strongly on the precautionary principle.

However, this briefing continues to warn of the dangers lurking in the AU’s Biosafety Stategy with regard to proposed biosafety harmonisation processes that involve several players that cause us great concern. These players include: Regional Economic Communities (RECs), who have a decidedly pro trade and pro GM agenda and whose biosafety initiatives have to date been funded by USAID. The briefing points out that the harmonisation approach favoured by USAID is one that creates a one stop GMO approval system, and thereby side stepping a country-by-country, case-by-case risk assessment and

GM Food aid: Africa denied choice once again?

Controversy over genetically modified (GM) food aid arose in 2000 in Latin America, and Asia, and exploded in 2002, when several southern African countries refused GM food aid during a food crisis. Now, in 2004 the controversy has erupted again after Sudan and Angola imposed restrictions over GM food aid. Food aid has been heavily criticized in the last fifty years, because it serves the interests of certain countries, particularly the US Government, as a tool to inter alia facilitate export surpluses and/or capture new markets. The use of GM food aid by the US has added a new dimension to the debate, because the provision of GM food aid is seen as providing an important back- door entry point for the introduction of genetically modified organism (GMOs) in developing countries.

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