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Addressing agricultural biotechnology and bio-safety policy issues to improve food security in the SADC
2006
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) - Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS)


  1. Funded by the USAID Southern Africa (USAID-SA), the purpose of PBS work in Southern Africa is to support the IEHA goal of increased rural incomes, through (i) facilitating the application of biotechnologies and GM product deployment to increase agricultural productivity; (ii) reducing barriers to agricultural trade of GM commodities.

    During a PBS planning meeting in March 2006, the following strategic objectives were identified for work in Southern Africa:

    1. Functional regulatory system adopted (Malawi)
    2. Regulatory assessments completed and implemented for GM cassava field trial (Malawi)
    3. Policy guidance incorporated by SADC and COMESA member countries on commodity trade and transboundary movement (regional)


  2. Justification

    Science and technology (S&T) constitute one of the two major pillars of the IEHA strategy to cut hunger in half by 2015. Leveraging the new scientific tools of biotechnology to generate crops that will increase agricultural production. To facilitate the integration of the full spectrum of biotechnology applications into regional agricultural production and trade systems creates a sound biotechnology policy environment.

    The development of regulatory policies that are science-based, balancing risk with benefit will provide the necessary environment in Southern Africa to encourage both public and private sector investment in the development and application of new technologies. Integration of these technologies into regional agricultural systems will also necessitate policies that facilitate trade, both commercial and food aid, in GM commodities. The debate over food aid in recent years and (drafts of) policies in several SADC countries are evidence that the current approach to policy in the region may be overly restrictive. There is clearly a need for better policy analysis and discussion, and strengthening national capacities to ensure that new barriers to technology and trade are not erected. Supporting both technology adoption and development of a supportive policy environment, aims to inform and engage key stakeholders such as policy-makers, the private sector, the research community, farmer organizations, and the public.

    The work plan described below is an extension of work started in early 2004. Priorities have been derived through several rounds of in-country consultations and interactions with regional organizations such as SADC, COMESA, USAID-SA and NEPAD. Annual work plans for national and sub-regional activities have detailed descriptions of deliverables and expected outputs. Generic output categories are as follows:

    • Policy analyses to inform regional and national biosafety policy development in support of USAID-SA and IEHA strategic objectives;
    • Biosafety policy recommendations to facilitate deployment of biotechnology and trade in GM crops;
    • Enhanced national policies and regulations in partner countries;
    • Strengthened technical capacity of national biosafety agencies;
    • Regional information resources to promote decision-making and outreach to stakeholders ranging from policy makers to farmers to public;
    • Engagement of more diverse stakeholders (e.g. farmers' organizations, researchers, private sector) interests in biosafety policy development.

    The following themes are planned for the work plan covering the period October 1, 2006 - September 30, 2007:

    1. Policy development and implementation - Sub-regional level
    2. Policy development and implementation- Malawi
    3. Regional communication strategies
    4. Networking and linkages with stakeholders

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