AFSA: Towards An Inclusive and Transparent COMESA Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy Development and Implementation Process
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), an alliance of African farmer and civil society networks and allies has released a statement on the adoption of the COMESA Biotechnology and Biosafety policy by member states. While calling for an inclusive and transparent COMESA Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy Development and implementation process, AFSA registered key concerns with the process. Chief among them the is the adoption of the COMESA Biotechnology and Biosafety policy by member states and further processes being advanced to immediately switch to policy implementation phase without consensus on contested issues. Delivering the statement to COMESA heads of state and USAID among others, Mr Bright Phiri representing AFSA, called on CSOs to be involved in such processes in their infancy. He urged CSOs to mobilize resources to develop a comprehensive advocacy strategy on ALL these regional pro-Genetic Modification (GM) processes.
While AFSA did not make blanket objections on biotechnology, it supported the responsible development and usage of technologies such as Marker Assisted Selection and tissue culture even though there are concerns on patenting and safe usage. Civil Society has continuously raised several issues on the shortcomings of this policy through the national and regional consultation processes, it is very worrisome that member states have opted to ignore and dismiss ALL contested matters by civil society when the policy was under development and continues to do so now as they commission this policy for implementation
In reaction to the statement, Mariam Mayet the Director African Centre for Biosafety (Acbio) called on CSOs to make a special effort to reach out to the youth in Africa as the continent has a very youthful population as around 50% of Africa’s population is under the age of 35. Ms Mayet noted that there is need for a renewed network on GM in Africa. “ We need a youthful, vibrant network where the youth are actively engaged as this has been taking place with great success in Ghana and Uganda where the youth are organizing and mobilizing,” said Ms Mayet as she called for a much more integrated alliance of Southern, East, Central, and West Africa.
Ms Mayet as noted that while a lot of work had been done, the immediate threats include: the opening of the country to GM in Ethiopia, the lifting of the ban in Kenya and the opening up of the Tanzania regulations to change key safety provisions that will see the beginning of GM field trials there. Ms Mayet commended CSOs on a job well done. “You all have done a great job and it is very painful to sit in these meetings and watch how our governments are selling our farmers down the river and our biodiversity, our seed systems and culture. But, there is great hope still that we will win the battle in Africa,” concluded Ms Mayet
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