MAIZALL presents at Biosafety Capacity Development in Africa conference

MAIZALL coordinator, Benno van der Laan was a guest speaker at a conference on biosafety in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on April 24 and 25, 2018. The conference organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute and the African Biosafety Network of Expertise brought together many African stakeholder organizations active in agricultural biotechnology.

Since 2009, several biosafety service providers with a focus on agricultural biotechnology and biosafety have held regular meetings to exchange information and experiences from their work in sub-Saharan Africa and to work towards stronger collaboration in countries. The process was initiated by USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In recent years the focus has been on countries that were making active progress in establishing regulatory systems and/or actively involved in biotech R&D, including field trials.

Mr. van der Laan gave a presentation focusing on MAIZALL’s activities and pointed out that agricultural biotechnology and plant breeding innovations such as genome editing are among the tools necessary to increase production sustainably. New and better products are constantly being developed, and MAIZALL’s farmers were committed to using them as soon as their effectiveness and safety had been fully assessed and confirmed. Mr. van der Laan added that MAIZALL’s farmers were ready to share their experiences using these technologies with African farmers, governments, regulatory agencies and other stakeholders.

He drew attention to the difficulties encountered in trade flow which occurred when countries had inadequate or non-functioning regulatory systems which led to asynchronous approvals between markets. This created unnecessary trade obstacles at the expense of farmers, exporters, importers, livestock producers and consumers. In some countries no systems exist at all or GM production is simply banned.

To address these trade disruptions, MAIZALL engaged with stakeholders across the agri-supply chain and with governments around the world. He said, MAIZALL worked hard within each members’ country to cooperate on the scientific risk assessments of new biotech products. We’ve had some success as countries in South America have expressed the political desire to do so, and in fact Mercosur has created a Biosafety Commission (composed of the heads of the member countries’ biosafety agencies) which is working on a system that would ensure the sharing of safety assessments to establish LLPs.

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MAIZALL is a voluntary, non-governmental organization representing grower organizations in major exporting countries interested in the international trade in corn. MAIZALL’s members recognize that the world’s population is growing; that the global middle class is growing even faster; and that global food demand will challenge producers of all commodities in all countries in the years ahead. While they are competitors for market share around the world, grower exporters share a common commitment to providing global consumers with enhanced diets, food security, food safety, and increased quality, variety, and consumer choice. MAIZALL’s members understand that modern agricultural techniques and an open, transparent, fair international trading system are essential to meeting these objectives. Contact us: info@maizall.org