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Modern biotechnology; biosafety regulatory framework
Building a vibrant bio-economy enterprise in the East African region requires facilitative policies and regulatory regimes that allow for the development and application of bio-based technologies in the national production systems. Modern biotechnology, the ability to transfer genes from one organism to another, across species barriers and resulting in genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is a critical technological tool in the sustainable exploitation of genetic resources. The Eastern Africa States are at various stages in the development of biotechnology policies and biosafety regulatory frameworks for the governance of modern biotechnology in response to the global biosafety regulatory instrument, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB). This variance presents a hindrance in the countries’ full application of modern biotechnology, thereby limiting their ability to effectively participate in the global bio-economy enterprise. A desk analysis methodology was applied to review information available in the public domain as regards the status of biotechnology policies and biosafety regulatory regimes in eight Eastern Africa countries. The objective of the analysis was to assess their readiness to harness modern biotechnology and generate policy advisory to facilitate the development and application of modern biotechnology. The overall impression of the biotechnology policies and biosafety regulatory regimes in the region is generally restrictive. There is a ban on the importation of genetically modified food in Kenya, a moratorium on the same in Rwanda, strict liability in Tanzania, and varying degrees of precautionary overtones in policy statements in some of the other countries. A recent review of restrictive provisions of biosafety laws in Ethiopia and biosafety regulations in Tanzania has allowed the commercial growing of genetically modified crops (Bt. Cotton) and conduct of confined field trials research on GMOs, respectively.