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 launched the African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) in 2010 to assist member states enact workable policies and build functional biosafety systems. The ultimate goal of 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 network (Gates Funded) has been offering 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 (NBCs), Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBCs) and Plant Quarantine Officers (PQs). To offer these services, a team of more than 15 biosafety specialists from Africa was trained at Michigan State University and is currently 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.
The key achievements/impacts of ABNE services include a) a critical mass of regulators and policy makers trained (30% of whom were women); b) facilitating the review of biosafety applications in Ghana for confined field trials of GE rice, cowpea cassava and multi-‐location trials of GE cotton; c) facilitating the shaping and passage of an improved biosafety policy in Burkina Faso through technical consultations; d) facilitating the adoption of workable regulations for regulatory decision-‐making in Nigeria; e) training of lawyers and legal advisors from eight countries in Africa focusing on science and regulations of biotechnology; f) institutionalizing Biosafety education in West and East African Universities through a Training of Trainers (ToT) approach; g) facilitating the development of manuals for biosafety communication and subsequent public participation in decision-‐making.