The key objective of the EAC is to develop policies and programmes aimed at enhancing co-operation among Partner States in economic matters, research and technology for mutual benefit. In this regard, Article 111(1) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC recognises that development activities may have negative impacts on the environment, often leading to degradation and depletion of natural resources and that a clean and healthy environment is a prerequisite for sustainable development.
It is in this view that the EAC has a Protocol on Environment and Natural Resources whose main objective on bio safety and biotechnology as as outlined in Article 27 (1) (of the protocol) is to develop and adopt common policies, laws and take measures to ensure that the development, handling, transport, use, transfer and release of any living modified organisms are undertaken in a manner that prevents or reduces the risks to environment, natural resources and human health. The Protocol has been signed by all the Partner States but with the exception of Uganda has not yet been ratified.
All five Partner States of the EAC have ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Bio safety and are hence part of the over 133 countries in the world that have agreed to contribute to an adequate level of protection in the field of safe transfer handling and use of living modified organisms and specifically focusing on transboundary movements. The Protocol came into force in September 2003 and the process of implementing the protocol involves putting in place National Biosafety Frameworks (NBF).
The countries have put in place their NBF following extensive consultations with policy makers, scientists and other stakeholders. The main components of these frameworks include the National Biotechnology/ Biosafety policies and the regulatory regimes. The Partner States have also set up National Biosafety Committees that act as technical regulatory bodies.
The EAC Council of Ministers established an EAC Partner States Technical Committee of Experts to address biosafety issues and recommend a common EAC Policy and Regulatory Framework on GMOs. The Council then established a Multi-Sectoral Ad-hoc Committee comprising of Agriculture and Food Security, Environment and Natural Resources and Trade experts to implement its decisions.