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Towards a regional approach to biotechnology and biosafety policies for Southern African Countries: Mauritius
Phase I: Stakeholders’ Views and Situation Analysis
2005
Harris Neeliah, Balraj Rajkomar, Asha Dookun-Saumtully, and Jairaj Ramkissoon


Abstract

This analysis of the biotechnology situation in Mauritius and the views of stakeholders there is part of a bigger project which aims to document a balanced review of the technical information needed to guide SADC countries’ biosafety policy choices. The report presents the results from a simple analysis of secondary data and the findings of a stakeholder analysis and a biosafety situational analysis.

The situational analysis shows that Mauritius has made a first step towards setting up a biosafety framework by enacting legislation re genetically modified organisms and instituting a National Biosafety Committee. But the Genetically Modified Organisms Act must be fully instituted and the remaining components of the regulatory system must be put in place. These limitations should be addressed locally and regionally to ensure that Mauritius can benefit fully from genetically modified crops and foods.

From the stakeholder analysis, it is highly probable that Mauritius is importing genetically modified products, either as inputs or as foods. The sample for the survey comprised 34 stakeholders with an interest in agriculture, trade, biotechnology, genetic modification and biosafety. The key findings are that stakeholders who are members of the National Biosafety Committee are well informed about the issues surrounding genetic modification. Others are informed about the issues falling under their area of expertise, but still others are relatively uninformed.

The report identifies areas of weakness and makes some preliminary recommendations.

Introduction

The extent to which modern biotechnology can contribute to agricultural development and sustainability is subject to intense scrutiny, debate and controversy. This is even more palpable in Africa, where it is hypothesized that modern agribiotechnology could provide solutions to many agriculture-related constraints. African countries therefore face a serious dilemma: whether to accept such technologies or not; and, if they do, how to maximize the associated benefits and minimize the risks. In order to take an informed decision, African governments need to be aware of the issues surrounding agribiotechnology, specifically those related to biosafety policies. This need for awareness, information and regulatory structures is also felt by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It resulted in the involvement of the Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), with a general aim of striving towards a regional approach to biotechnology policy in southern Africa. FANRPAN specifically wants to assess whether Mauritius has biosafety structures in place that will enable the country to fully benefit from the rewards that biotechnology and, more specifically, genetic engineering can potentially bring to agriculture, trade and food security.

  1. Terms of reference

    To achieve the above-mentioned objective, a stakeholder analysis and a biosafety situational analysis were conducted.


  2. Structure of the report

    Section 2 highlights the specific aims of the study and shows what methodology was used to fulfil each objective. Section 3 describes the frameworks pertaining to living genetically modified organisms (LMOs), biotechnology and biosafety, and which of these frameworks have been signed and ratified by Mauritius. Section 4 depicts legislation with regard to genetically modified organisms (GMO) in Mauritius and its main provisions. Section 5 analyses the results of secondary data collection and the findings of the stakeholder and biosafety situational analyses. The main findings and recommendations are presented in Section 6, and the working paper is concluded in Section 7.

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