Technical assistance facilitates the development of oversight guidelines for genome editing in the agricultural sector
The Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS), supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), assisted four African countries in developing oversight guidelines for genome editing that accurately reflect the science and evolving regulatory trends for this game-changing, Nobel-prize winning technology.
Genome editing encompasses various modern technologies that allow scientists to insert, remove, replace, or modify specific fragments of DNA of organisms or cells. Genome editing can provide new ways of addressing challenges related to food insecurity and climate change.
In 2019, amid the recent advancement of several CGIAR-led research and development (R&D) efforts on genome editing, four African partner countries requested regulatory policy assistance on this technology from the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) team.
In 2019, four African partner countries requested regulatory policy assistance on genome editing from the PIM-supported Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS).
The PBS team followed a well-planned strategy to achieve policy change driven by local actors. The capacity building approach combined technical and communications training that was customized for scientists, regulators, lawyers, professional communicators, and economists — the key groups that need targeting to build institutional strength for independent, self-reliant decision-making in the technology space.
After first being carried out in Kenya, the process was subsequently replicated in Nigeria, Malawi, and Ethiopia. Additional efforts are planned for Uganda and Ghana.
Of the four countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria), Nigeria has achieved the most progress and has already published the government’s position on gene editing. Similar guidelines are in various stages of development in the other countries.
This swift progress has led Kenya and Nigeria to provide leadership in the development of genome editing guidelines for agricultural innovations in Africa. The CEO of Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority participated in a One CGIAR webinar on genome editing and the CEO of Nigeria’s National Biosafety Management Agency is now leading an Africa Union-wide effort on genome editing policy guidelines.
The progress achieved through this initiative capitalizes on PBS’s nearly two decades of technical assistance aimed at enhancing the skills of decision-makers in agricultural biotechnology regulations.
This initiative should result in potentially game-changing innovations for agricultural productivity, nutritional status, and climate change resilience in Africa. The progress achieved by Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria capitalizes on PBS’s nearly two decades of technical assistance aimed at enhancing the skills of decision-makers in agricultural biotechnology regulations.