Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports biotechnology in Africa

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports biotechnology in Africa

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biotechnologyAccra, May 3, GNA–The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Thursday presented US$3 million grant to the Open Forum for Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) to expand its operations.

The grant also seeks to support the forum to create an enabling environment for agricultural biotechnology which would allow for the testing and delivery of innovative tools to help farmers enhance their food security and create wealth for their families and nations.

Ms Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, announced the grant at the forum’s 5th Anniversary commemoration workshop in Accra.

She described biotechnology as a vital tool used extensively in agriculture globally over the decades which had contributed immeasurably to food security in Africa.

She therefore called on African governments and stakeholders to address information gap create an enabling environment for the use of agricultural biotechnology.

“At the country level, there is the need for national scientists and experts to provide policy makers and the general public with evidence-base information needed to harness such technologies,” she added.

Professor Walter Sandow Alhassan, Coordinator for Africa Biosafety and Biotechnology Policy Platform, noted that despite the increasing global trends in the use of modern biotechnology for agriculture, the rate of its adoption in Africa was slow.

He noted that: “Biotechnology has delivered substantial benefits to farmers around the world but Africa still lags behind in exploiting its potential partly due to lack of an enabling environment for the development and use of agricultural biotechnology.

“But inadequate awareness creation, lack of biotechnology related legislation, poor infrastructure and insufficient financial support for agricultural research has hindered the use of biotechnology”.

Prof. Alhassan identified some challenges faced by Africans in the area of biotechnology as poor risk management capability and lack of political will to implement biotechnology laws.

He therefore called on governments across Africa to provide enabling legislation and fast track mechanism for a science-led review of biosafety applications.

According to him, only six out of the 15 countries in West Africa have some form of legislation framework for the implementation of biosafety acts.

The Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) is a platform that provides an opportunity for biotechnology stakeholders to network, share knowledge and experiences, and explores new avenues of bringing the benefits of biotechnology to the African farmer and investor.

GNA

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