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Swaziland, Monday, March 27, 2017. Members of the National Biosafety Advisory Council (NBAC) of Swaziland are going through training to build their capacity in biosafety risk-assessment.

The objectives of the training are to build capacity of the Swaziland Environmental Authority on Risk Analysis covering assessment, management and communication aspects.
Subsequently, a three days training workshop was organized jointly between Swaziland Environment Authority, COMESA/ACTESA and the NEPAD/ABNE in eZulwini 27 – 29 March 2017 to provide an overview of best practices in Site and Facility monitoring, inspection and compliance for genetically modified (GM) crops.

COMESA Senior Biotechnology Policy Advisor Dr. Getachew Belay applauded Swaziland for the progress it has made in creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment to resume insect resistant Bt-cotton field trials in 2016.

“Such progress would not have been possible without the concerted efforts of policy makers, regulators and product testers,” he said.

In his address to the workshop participants, Dr Belay urged for further strengthening of the collaborations while taking into account the end-users of the technology; the farmers.

He said: “Although biosafety considerations will have to be science-based, farmers’ benefits from this technology should also be factored in decision making.”

In his official opening remarks Mr. Isaac Dladla, the Acting Executive Director of the Swaziland Environment Authority (SEA), described the training as timely coming at a time when Swaziland was preparing for a parliamentary hearing on the draft amended biosafety Act.

“As much as we value science-based risk assessment we, as an environmental authority, would like to give a chance to the public to have a say on biosafety decisions,” Dladla said.

In his remarks, Seemilo Mavimbela, representing the Chairperson of the NBAC, said his organization’s role was to advise SEA on biosafety issues to strike a balance between the environmental protection and judicious use of modern biotechnology.

He said the NBAC had advised on the approval of field trials on Bt-cotton in 2016 and thus the workshop would further enhance confidence for similar advice.
The Principal Program Officer at the NEPAD/ Africa Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), Dr. Silas Obukosia, pointed out that Malawi, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Swaziland are in advanced stages of approving agro-biotech products.

He observed: “This progress requires continuous regulatory capacity building, and this workshop is part of that capacity building objective in Swaziland.”
Twenty five biosafety regulators and product testers attended the workshop, which will be capped with a field visit to Bt-cotton trial sites.