Addressing the impact of biosafety systems and regional policies - towards a regional approach to biotechnology policy in Southern Africa


The extent to which modern biotechnology can contribute to agricultural development and sustainability is subject to incensed scrutiny, debate and controversy. This is even more palpable in Africa, where it is hypothesised that modern agricultural biotechnology could provide solutions to many agriculture and food related constraints. African countries therefore face a serious decision on whether to accept such technologies and if they do, how to maximise the associated benefits and minimise the risks. In order to make informed decisions, Governments, stakeholders and role-players need to be aware of the issues surrounding agricultural biotechnology and related products, specifically those related to biosafety policies. 

In 2004 the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) approached the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) to facilitate a research project in the SADC region. The main aim of this research activity was to collect data and information on a range of aspects pertaining to agriculture, biotechnology, genetically modified crops, trade, food security and bio-safety regulation and legislation with a view to presenting a balanced and comprehensive body of information to the debate regarding agricultural biotechnology in the SADC region. 

The research project currently focuses on three countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), namely Malawi, Mauritius and South Africa. All three these countries have, or are at an advance stage of developing biosafety regulations and legislation even though they have followed different approaches. For decision makers in other SADC countries, and as it turns out, for decision makers and many stakeholders within the focus countries, balanced information on the current situation, facts and respective views of role-players are relatively scarce yet highly vital in the policy development phase. 

This document briefly highlights some of the preliminary findings of the situation and stakeholder analysis in the three countries.