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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has intensified efforts to ensure biosafety as the preliminary draft regulations on biosafety in West Africa have been validated by the ECOWAS Ministers. This is in order to address the challenges related to the use of modern biotechnologies and their potential impacts on the environment, human and animal health and socio-economic and food security in the region.
This was the crux of the meeting of the representatives of the Ministers at the weekend in Abuja, Nigeria, where they called on Member States to effectively implement the regulations when adopted by the ECOWAS Parliament and the statutory Council of Ministers.
Furthermore they urged the ECOWAS Commission to collaborate with Member states and other regional organizations to develop information mechanisms on the regulations and contribute towards the mobilisation of funds necessary for its implementation.
Speaking during the meeting, the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Sékou Sangaré reiterated the Commission’s commitment to strengthen institutional, technical and human capacities and cooperate with other sub regional and international organizations to promote the effective implementation of the regulations.
In the same vein Nigeria’s Minister of Environment, Suleiman Hassan Zarma, stated that the biosafety regulations for West Africa will assist less competent Member States through capacity development and sharing of ideas and knowledge in line with Article 22 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB).
The Minister, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Ibukun Odusote, noted further that the (CPB) “enjoins parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to cooperate in the development and/or strengthening of human resources and institutional capacities in biosafety, including biotechnology to the extent that it is required for biosafety, for the purpose of the effective implementation of the protocol, in developing countries with economies in transition”.
The Minister had told reporters during an interview after he declared open the expert meeting on biosafety that the laws will have at the forefront the protection and safety human life and the environment adding that the Nigerian government is ready to fully embrace it so long as it will not affect the people and environment in negative ways. “We have the National biosafety Management Agency which is a regulatory body and is essentially there to ensure that the laws are strictly adhered to,” he said.
The regional regulations on biosafety stems from a collaboration of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Economic Monetary Union (WAEMU) and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) to address environmental and socio-economic challenges of biotechnologies in the region.
Innocent Odoh, Abuja