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Preface Annex 1
The African Biosafety Model Law was adopted by the AU at its 74th Ordinary Session in Lusaka, Zambia, in July 2001, and urged member states to use the African Biosafety Model Law to draft their own national legal instruments.
This model law emanated from a highly participatory process which included researchers, governments, and civil society groups. It reflects a broad consensus on issues of biotechnology development. The regulatory framework utilizes the discretion given by the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety for countries to adopt more stringent protective measures than the agreed minimum set out in the Protocol. The African Biosafety Model Law recognizes the importance of Africa as a centre of origin and a centre of diversity with regard to food and other crops. It makes provision for considering socioeconomic factors in assessing risks and opportunities. Key legal principles and approaches incorporated include:
The African Biosafety Model Law provides a holistic and comprehensive set of biosafety rules including issues that are not dealt with by the Biosafety Protocol. These include mandatory labelling and identification or traceability requirements for GMOs and GM food, and liability and redress for harm caused by GMOs to human health and the environment, and for resultant economic loss (Mayet 2003).
Six regional economic communities in Africa, namely the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS), the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Arab Mahgreb Union (AMU) have taken the lead in developing policy guidance on GMO research, production and marketing in their respective regions.
In Kampala, in November 2002, agricultural ministers of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), agreed to create a regional policy on GMOs. Similarly, the SADC established an advisory committee on GMOs to develop guidelines and to assist member states in guarding against potential risks in food safety, contamination of genetic resources, ethical issues, trade- related issues and consumer concerns. These are set out in Box 11. The EAC has recommended reviewing and developing a common policy on GMOs. The IGAD members formed a Verification and Monitoring Team (VMT) to ensure that food assistance be certified as free of GMOs. Fifteen members of ECOWAS attended a meeting to better understand and discuss the benefits and threats of GMOs.
NATIONAL POLICY AND LAW
The need for adequate national policies and laws to regulate biotechnology research and establish effective assessment processes which safeguard human and environmental health is widely acknowledged. There is a need to develop harmonized approaches to biotechnology and the African Biosafety Model Law provides a good basis for this, as does the Model Law for the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities, Farmers, Breeders and Regulation of Access to Biological Resources. Other region-wide organizations such as New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and its Science and Technology Secretariat could have an important role.
At least nine countries have biosafety legislation or guidelines including Benin, Cameroon, Malawi, Mauritius, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho and Swaziland all have draft legislation that addressees the issue of biosafety, the commercialization of GM crops and the importation of GM foods.
Developed country aid agencies and international organizations have had a keen interest in supporting the development of an enabling legal environment for transgenic research and biosafety. Some of these initiatives appear in Annex 3 Table 2. The United States Agency for International Development is the most active in this area. The US has been a keen supporter of GM crop development, offering it as food aid, and the US is also the largest producer of GM crops. Several African countries have or are in the process of developing biosafety policies and law through a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – Global Environmental Facility (GEF) initiative. This capacity-building project supported 100 developing countries to prepare national biosafety frameworks. Thirty-six African countries have or are participating in this project. An AU biosafety capacity-building project designed to spearhead the harmonization of biosafety legislation between member states based on the African Biosafety Model Law has been developed.