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9-Misc: FAO launches network to support African biotech research and policy



                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Network to support African biotech research, policy
SOURCE: SciDevNet, UK, by Wagdy Sawahel
        http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?
fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2710&language=1
DATE:   08 Mar 2006

------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


..........................................................................
have a look at the ABNET web page at:
<http://www.abneta.org/index.php>
..........................................................................


Network to support African biotech research, policy
The network will bring together scientists, policymakers, farmers and the
media

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization will launch an online network
this month to boost biotechnology research and policy development in Africa.

The Agricultural Biotechnology Network for Africa (ABNET) will encourage
researchers, policymakers, farmers and the media to share information and
discuss how biotechnology can improve agriculture.

Stanford Blade, director of research for development at the Nigeria-based
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, welcomes the move.

"We hope ABNET will enhance interactions among the African biotechnology
community so that they can use new tools to overcome problems facing poor
farmers across the continent," he told SciDev.Net.

The network will gather relevant information and host electronic
discussions on its website. A key aim is to promote dialogue on policy
issues such as biosafety and the conservation of genetic resources.

However, Tilahun Zeweldu, biotechnology advisor to Uganda's Agricultural
Productivity Enhancement Programme, says the network will not make a
difference unless there is heavy private sector involvement.

"We should capitalise on public-private partnerships for technology
development and commercialisation," he says.

To encourage the private sector to get involved, Zeweldu says Africa
needs regional clusters of biotechnology and business development parks,
as well as a fund to support innovation.

ABNET will be launched in Nairobi, Kenya on 21 March. It will organise
regional meetings, training courses and workshops to promote agricultural
biotechnology, and improve farmers' access to new technologies.

The African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum, an association with members
in seven African nations, will manage the network.


                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  FAO's Regional Conference for Africa opens
SOURCE: FAO, Press Release
        http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000218/index.html
DATE:   10 Feb 2006

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..........................................................................
read more about the conference at
<http://www.fao.org/Unfao/Bodies/RegConferences/arc24/24arc_en.htm>
..........................................................................

FAO's Regional Conference for Africa opens

Experts and officials from some 53 countries meet in Mali as food
shortages continue in many African countries
30 January 2006, Bamako, Mali - Amid continued threats to Africa's food
security, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) convened the
24th Regional Conference for Africa today. The Conference will examine
issues as wide-ranging as African seeds and biotechnology, agrarian
reform, how to enhance the competitiveness of agriculture and natural
resources management in a globalized and liberalized world, and ways to
reduce the growing number of fires that endanger agriculture production.

Conference documents have noted that "the economic situation in sub-
Saharan Africa remains a serious cause for concern in many respects" and
call for "urgent action" to implement strategies that would enhance
access to agricultural support services and facilities such as credit
provision and farm mechanization services technology. 


Integrated seed development programme needed

Good quality seeds are hardly available to farmers, hence the need for
Africa to put in place a more robust seed sector development strategy
that will guarantee access by farmers to quality seeds. 

FAO has therefore proposed an integrated Seed System Development
Programme for Africa to provide a strategic approach to the comprehensive
development of the seed sector, taking into account regional and country-
level priorities. 


GMOs remain a source of concern

One of the many food safety concerns in Africa, according to papers
prepared for the Conference, is genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
"It has been widely acknowledged that modern biotechnology, if
appropriately developed, could offer new and broad potential for
contributing to food security. At the same time the speed of genetic
change made possible by genetic engineering may represent a new potential
impact on the biosphere. These developments, while offering to extend
progress in food security, have posed concerns, both real and perceived,
about the safety of these technologies, especially in Africa, where
legislation on biotechnology and GMOs is lacking and few countries have
any regulatory framework concerning GMOs," says one report.


Forest fires causing soil and water problems

The continuing need to combat wildfires that destroy forests and inhibit
their natural renewal will also be a major topic at the Conference.
Foresters recognize that wildfire in Africa often results from legitimate
traditional agricultural and livestock management practices, which are
being applied with increasing intensity to meet growing food security
needs. According to FAO, the frequency and severity of fires is of
concern to both foresters and farmers as the cumulative effect of pasture
impoverishment, long-term soil fertility decline, impaired water
catchment functions and the use of crop and animal residues as fuelwood
substitutes can be summed up in one word - desertification.

The Regional Conference for Africa will also consider the plan put
forward by Director-General Jacques Diouf and approved in November 2005
by the Organization's governing Conference of 190 countries authorizing
implementation of the reform proposals related to the decentralization of
FAO's structure in sub-Saharan Africa, where country-level capacities
will be strengthened through the establishment of additional national
professional officer posts and greater delegation of authority to FAO
Country Representatives.


Avian influenza has African countries worried

The meeting will also consider the threat of avian flu and the
preparedness to combat it as well as the response to a possible outbreak.

During the period, a one-day meeting of the African Union Ministers of
Agriculture is being held in Bamako to discuss the food security
situation on the continent and the implementation of the Comprehensive
Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), and especially the
tracking of the commitment to increase investment in the agriculture
sector. A three-day NGO/CSO Consultation funded by the Italian government
is taking place immediately prior to the Regional Conference.

The FAO Regional Conference meets every two years and is attended by
Ministers of Agriculture and other top officials from some 53 countries
in Africa.

Contact:
Paul Fouda Onambele
Regional Information Officer, FAO
paul.foudaonambele@fao.org
(+223) 929 29 47 - mobile 
(+223) 222 63 33
(+223) 222 37 13
(+223) 222 65 76

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