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 decision-making process.

The briefing also reiterates our extreme disquiet at the role of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (?FARA?) in the implementation of the AU's Biosafety Strategy. The briefing goes further by proffering information to the AU's Biosafety Unit of FARA's involvement with industry by highlighting for example, its partnership with the Syngenta Foundation announced in May 2009, to launch a 3 year biosafety capacity building project for six countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi. FARA's board member is the well known Florence Wambugu, whose long standing ties with Monsanto and generally, the pro-GM machinery is well established.

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