African Biosafety Network of Expertise
Regulatory barriers are the key bottlenecks for the development and deployment of Genetically Engineered (GE) crops in Africa. To build the regulatory capacity, the NEPAD Agency in partnership with Michigan State University (MSU) launched the African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) in 2010 to assist member states enact workable policies and build functional biosafety systems.
The main goal of the Gates-funded ABNE is to create enabling policy environments so that regulatory decisions can be made by the national governments and safe biotech crops can reach to millions of smallholder farmers in Africa.
ABNE offers a range of services including workshops, short courses, internships, study tours, technical consultations, interactive fora, as well as representations in biotechnology and biosafety related meetings in Africa and globally.
These services target the members of National Biosafety Committees, Institutional Biosafety Committees and Plant Quarantine Officers.
To offer these services, a team of more than 15 biosafety specialists from Africa was trained at MSU and is based at the ABNE nodes in Burkina Faso and Uganda.
Using specific criteria, ABNE has prioritized 11 countries in Africa to offer these services, many of which are receiving biosafety applications for field trials and general release of biotech crops or are in the process of revising and upgrading their biosafety policies, procedures and regulations.
Key achievements include:
- A critical mass of regulators and policy makers trained (30% of whom were women)
- Review of biosafety applications in Ghana for confined field trials of GE rice, cowpea cassava and multi-‐location trials of GE cotton
- Shaping and passage of an improved biosafety policy in Burkina Faso through technical consultations
- Adoption of workable regulations for regulatory decision‐making in Nigeria
- Training lawyers and legal advisors from eight African countries focusing on science and regulations of biotechnology
- Institutionalization of biosafety education in West and East African Universities through a training of trainers approach
- Development of manuals for biosafety communication and subsequent public participation in decision‐making