Remarks by Ambassador Mushingi
Animal Biotechnology Workshop
King Fahd Hotel
2018, 9:00 a.m.
Minister of Environment (Representative),
National Biosafety Authorities from participating countries,
ECOWAS and UEMOA representatives (TBD),
Good morning. I am pleased to have the opportunity to join you here today. I would first like to thank the Governments of Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Niger, as well as other members of the steering committee including the U.S Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service and Virginia Tech University who helped organize this workshop, and the international guest speakers joining us today. I also would like to give a big welcome to all West African participants joining us from the region.
This workshop has many objectives, but it ultimately gives all of us the opportunity to discuss and exchange information on animal biotechnology and science-based biosafety regulatory systems. The goal of a transparent biosafety regulatory system based on sound science is to give consumers and farmers access to new technology that is safe. It uses a science-based decision-making process to approve biotech products so that years and years of research can become commercially available.
In terms of research, there are genetically engineered (GE) products in development in West Africa at this very moment. For example, West African researchers are developing GE mosquitos that can help decrease cases of malaria, or Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cowpeas that require less pesticide and guard against insects, which helps to improve yields. Likewise, there is international research on other GE products that West African consumers may demand in the future, such as Golden Rice which exhibits enhanced vitamin A and can help improve nutrition. GE technology could also be used as one tool to help address the Fall Armyworm pest in Africa.
This workshop offers a great opportunity for each of you to discuss other important topics on agricultural biotechnology with your colleagues in the region during the next three days. For example, some of you may be working with other ECOWAS member countries to develop a regional biosafety law for the ECOWAS community. During the next few days, it may be worthwhile to explore whether concepts or ideas from this workshop might support those efforts, including the potential for intraregional trade and regional market access for GE products.
If, for example, a process is included in the ECOWAS regional biosafety law that gives all ECOWAS member countries access to approved GE products, this will give more West Africans the opportunity to purchase biotech products developed here and around the world. These GE products might help improve production, or could be imported to meet consumer demand needs and improve food security. For example, GE soybeans or corn could be imported to support the livestock or aquaculture sector; likewise, GE soybeans could be used to fortify wheat flour with additional protein.
Agricultural biotechnology is one tool that gives us the opportunity to innovate and find solutions to challenges we face in the agriculture sector. This workshop addresses an essential component: transparent biosafety regulatory systems and decision-making processes based on sound science. The creation of such a system gives our friends, family, and neighbors access to new technologies and food that is safe. And on that note, I would like to end by emphasizing what Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said not so long ago, “Do right and feed everyone.” Thank you, and I wish you a successful workshop.