Genetic engineering (GE) is a relatively new technology of which there is little public awareness on the risks and benefits in East African region.
As a result, the recent introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in food, feed and processing in agriculture has not been received well by certain segments of society. The GMO debate thus invokes mixed feelings from environment, food safety, human and animal health, policy makers and the general public.
The EAC Partner States have ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a global provision on biosafety that supports safe handling, transfer, and use of genetically modified organisms. Taking into account that GMOs might already be within the EAC national systems, basic frameworks for biosafety, including National Biosafety Committees (NBC) have been established that act as technical regulatory bodies for biosafety. The Protocol is a multilateral environmental agreement that is intended to contribute to the safe transfer, handling, and use of genetically modified organisms that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health, and with specific focus on transboundary movements.
Areas of focus include control of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and harmonization of policy frameworks. The priority areas include:
- Establish a working group on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) under the committee on Environment and Natural resources for the purpose of addressing GMO matters.
- Harmonize the existing policy frameworks on GMOs including supporting development of a common policy, legal, administrative and institutional framework to deal with bio-safety and biotechnology.