African Policy, Decision Makers To Be Trained on Biosafety

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By Abdallah el-Kurebe

The African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), an Agency of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and Nigeria’s Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu have organised a short training course for African policy and decision-makers on Biosafety, in collaboration with the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) and the Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA.

According to the Concept Note developed by the organisers, the training is in recognition of the “opportunities and challenges that modern biotechnology offers for enhancing agricultural productivity in Africa.”

Similar short courses, ABNE states, had been held in partnership with African universities including, “the Polytechnic University of Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso (2013); the Makarere University in Uganda (2014 & 2015) and the University of Ghana in Ghana (2015),” adding that “the courses aim at empowering policy and decision makers and other important stakeholders with current information on biosafety and biotechnology to enable them effectively support regulatory processes.”

The Concept Note further stated that the choice of Nigeria as a host country and Godfrey Okoye as the host University was informed by Nigeria’s participation in the inaugural short course in Ghana and noting its relevance in garnering stakeholders support for biosafety processes.

“The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) requested ABNE’s support for the hosting of the Short Biosafety Course in Nigeria as well as Godfrey Okoye, a private and one of the fastest growing universities in Nigeria with strong competencies in biotechnology as hosting University. GO also offered to share the cost of the training.

“With the Biosafety Act being passed in 2015 and the subsequent establishment of the NBMA, it is necessary to build a critical mass of stakeholders that will offer support at both institutional and national levels to the biosafety regulatory system,” the Note further stated.

The objectives of the short course are: “To introduce policy and decision makers with evidence-based information on biosafety and biotechnology to help demystify the science and regulation of the technology; to increase awareness among key actors on their role, and the significance of having functional regulatory systems for biotechnology; to provide a platform for networking among key actors and to foster inter-agency collaborations and to promote biosafety awareness amongst key stakeholder and actors to facilitate their participation in biosafety decision making.”

The course program comprises:
“Environmental issues associated with agricultural production
Overview of environmental biosafety, and crop biology
Environmental and food safety issues associated with GM crops;
functional Biosafety Administration during the GM crop development (laboratory, greenhouse testing and field testing); Biosafety of GM crops considerations beyond confined field trial (CFT); post release consideration of GM crops and visit to biotech laboratories and confined field trial (CFT) of GM crop at National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, Nigeria,” among many others.

At the end of the course, capacity would be built in regulators for science-based risk evaluation and justified decision making process as well as development of regional biosafety experts and establishment of a network.

Those expected to attend the three-day training include policy makers, technocrats, regulators and legal practitioners in government ministries, departments and agencies who may be directly or indirectly involved in regulating biotechnology, news editors in selected government and private media organizations, leaders of farmers’ groups and other interested stakeholders.

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