Malawi and four other countries in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) undertook a study tour of India’s biotechnology cotton farming to build confidence among African stakeholders on regulatory and commercialisation processes, biosafety communications and trade issues relating to biotech crops.
The study tour comprised members of Parliament, biosafety regulators, researchers and journalists.
A statement from Comesa Secretariat indicates the study tour is one of the strategic objectives of Comesa Biotechnology and Biosafety Implementation Plan to support experience-sharing through peer-learning platforms within Comesa member states and beyond.
“The study tour was intended to equip key stakeholders from member states with knowledge and experience to better understand biotechnology for informed decision-making,” Getachew Belay, the Senior Biotechnology Policy Adviser at the Comesa Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (Actesa) is quoted as saying.
The tour was jointly organised by the South Asia Biotechnology Centre, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications and Comesa-Actesa in an initiative dubbed “Seeing is Believing.”
It included onsite visits to public and private biotech research development facilities, insect resistant genetically modified cotton farms, seed processing facilities and relevant cotton sub-sector players in Mumbai, Jalna, Aurangabad of Maharashtra States and Hyderabad of Telangana State in Central and Southern India.
The Founder Director of South Asia Biotechnology Centre, Bhagirath Choudhary, who coordinated the tour, said the initiative was intended to showcase successful case studies thus creating a team of dedicated champions in support of the technology.
“This initiative will help build the necessary confidence among the African stakeholders on regulatory and commercialization processes, biosafety communications and trade issues of biotech crops,” Choudhary said.
In Comesa region, Sudan is the only State that has fully embraced biotech and commercialised the crop with over 100,000 acres currently under Bt-cotton cultivation. Other States such as Kenya, Swaziland, Uganda, Malawi and Ethiopia are at the Green House to Confined Field trial stages for the cotton and other crops.
India was chosen owing to its long experience of over 14 years of cultivation of Bt- cotton with an adoption rate of 95 percent. In 2015 India grew 12 million hectares of Bt- cotton and has benefitted by an enhanced income of $16.7 billion in the twelve year period from 2002 to 2013.