DELEGATES from five Comesa States that grow cotton have completed a one week experience-sharing and learning tour of biotechnology cotton farming, regulation and commercialisation in India.

Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Swaziland and Zambia participated in the study tour, which comprised Members of Parliament, bio-safety regulators, researchers and journalists.

The study tour is one of the strategic objectives of Comesa Biotechnology and Bio-safety Implementation Plan (COMBIP) to support experience-sharing through peer-learning platforms within Comesa member States and beyond.

“The study tour was intended to equip key stakeholders from member States with knowledge and experience to better understand biotechnology for informed decision-making,” Dr Getachew Belay, the Senior Biotechnology Policy Advisor at the Comesa Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) said.

The tour was jointly organised by the South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC), the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA, AfriCentre), and COMESA-ACTESA in an initiative dubbed “seeing-is-believing.”

Founder director of South Asia Biotechnology Centre Mr Bhagirath Choudhary, who coordinated the tour, said the initiative was intended to showcase successful case studies thus creating a team of dedicated champions in support of the technology.

“This initiative will help build the necessary confidence among the African stakeholders on regulatory and commercialisation processes, bio-safety communications and trade issues of biotech crops,” he said.

In the Comesa region, Sudan is the only State that has fully embraced biotech and commercialised the crop with over 100 000 acres currently under Bt-cotton cultivation. Other States such as Kenya, Swaziland, Uganda, Malawi and Ethiopia are at the Green House to Confined Field trial stages for the cotton and other crops.

India was chosen owing to its long experience of over 14 years of cultivation of Bt-cotton (named after the bacteria from where the insect resistance gene, Bacillus thuringiensis was obtained) with an adoption rate of 95 percent.

Last year India grew 12 million hectares of Bt- cotton and has benefitted by an enhanced income of $16,7 billion in the twelve year period 2002-2013. – BH24

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