ECOWAS is to implement biosafety regulations aimed at ensuring safe practices in the agriculture sector in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of achieving Zero Hunger by 2030.
This formed the basis of the meeting of Experts of Biosafety for the Validation of the Preliminary Draft Regulations on Biosafety in West Africa held in Abuja on Tuesday.
The meeting aimed to review draft regulations on the exploitation of biological processes for industrial and other purposes to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture in the region.
In his address, Minister of Environment, Mr Suleiman Zarma said that Nigeria recognised the need for a regional biosafety system.
“We all understand that agricultural growth and sustainable environment have been and will remain key to improving livelihoods in Africa.
“However, these sectors have been constrained by the multiplicity of challenges requiring multi-pronged innovative solutions.
“Safe modern biotechnology has proved to be that solution which will ensure our people-farmers, entrepreneur and the economy- succeed within the region.”
Zarma added that the review of the regulations would ensure that cross-border trade on living modified organisms and their products were hamonised, improved and safe to human health and the environment.
“Your being here means you agree that science and technology are major drivers of change in addressing most of our challenges and in particular, modern biotechnology, which has the ability to unlock Africa’s potential.
“This is by enhancing green economy, agricultural productivity, sustenance of biodiversity and economic growth, if well regulated.”
Also speaking with newsmen, Mr Sékou Sangare, ECOWAS Commissioner, Agriculture and Water Resources said the implementation would improve institutional, technical and human capacities in member states.
Sangare said that it would also ensure safe practices while exploiting the benefits of biotechnology.
“You know that biotechnology may have negative impact for humans and biodiversity so the draft regulation is looking to identify the impact and how to use it safely to avoid the negative impacts.
“This would boost agriculture, animal production and we will also have good seeds and all these will help to fight hunger.”
Furthermore, Mr Komlan Messie, General Secretary, West Africa Civil Society Forum said the civil society was participating in the meeting to make sure the concerns of the citizens were taken into account.
Messie also said the organisation would support governments in the region after the adoption of the regulations.
“After the regulation is adopted the civil society is there to support the government, to share the information and also to sensitise and build capacity so people will be very aware of what is going in biosecurity and biotechnology.”
He added that the society would encourage further research on biotechnology “for the wellbeing of everyone”.
“This is also a business opportunity for citizens,” he added.