The government of Malawi published its biosafety draft regulations in The Malawi Gazette Supplement on 13 September 2002 (“biosafety law”), at the height of the GM food aid controversy when several countries in Southern Africa imposed restrictions on the acceptance of genetically modified food aid from the United States.

Malawi accepted the GM food aid, with few restrictions being imposed. At the time of writing, the writer obtained conflicting information as to whether the draft law had been promulgated. However, the writer was able to ascertain that the biosafety law, represents the current biosafety framework. Malawi is not yet a Party to the United Nation’s Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (“Biosafety Protocol”), nor is it amongst the 123 developing countries participating in the UNEP-GEF Biosafety Capacity Building project. It was however, one of 7 “core target” countries in Southern Africa that participated in a USAID funded biosafety capacity building project, the Southern Africa Regional Biotechnology Program (SARB)”. SARB is a sub-project of a larger United States Assistance for International Development (USAID) project, managed by the Michigan State University, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program (ABSP). ABSP’s private sector partners include, Asgrow, Monsanto Co. Garst See Company (ICI Seeds Inc), Pioneer Hi-Bred and DNA Plant Technology (DNAP).

The objective of SARB is to “build regional policy and technical capacity supportive of science-based regulation of the development, commercial application and trade in agricultural products derived from modern biotechnology”. However, USAID is more forthright on SARB’s specific objective, which is to provide the “regulatory foundation to support field testing of genetically engineered products.” (own emphasis). SARB was a three-year project (2000-3), co-ordinated by South Africa ‘s Agriculture Research Council (ARC)-Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute. SARB’s person in charge of biosafety training is Ms Muffy Koch, a member of the industry lobby group, Africabio, in charge of education issues.

The SARB project conducted a number of workshops in several Southern African countries and other communication outreach events and in so doing, specifically targeted decision-makings, scientists and the media. The industry influence at some of these workshops is clearly apparent. For instance, SARB workshops conducted in South Africa were supported by Dr. Donald Mackenzie, Vice President of Agbios, Canada.

SARB workshops held in Mauritius were hosted by the Mauritian Sugar Industry Research Institute. These workshops were supported by consultant, Julian Kindelerer who “added an international flair to the resource team from SARB.” NGOs in South Africa have long since held the view that Julian Kindelerer has been associated with drafting of South Africa’s weak regime relating to GMOs. This regime has been described by environmental and development lawyers in South Africa, as disp laying “a cynical disregard for contemporary international and national environmental principles, as well as for the development imperatives of South Africa.

You can read the analysis of Malawi’s Biosafety Legislation by Mariam Mayet here.