My Name is Alejandro Hernández. I work with Risk Assessment and Management, at the Biotechnology Program, Phytosanitary Service, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in Costa Rica.
I would like to share some thoughts on the importance of regional cooperation in facilitating capacity-building risk assessment and monitoring of LMOs. Currently, many countries, especially developing countries and countries with economies in transition, lack human resources and institutional capacities to effectively carry out risk assessments and to monitor LMOs in the field. At the same time, most of them do not have adequate resources to be able to build their capacities in the near future. Clearly, there is an urgent need for those countries to join forces and cooperate at regional and sub-regional levels in order to increase their capacities in biosafety, particularly in the areas of risk assessment and field monitoring of LMOs.
Over the past few years, some regional and sub-regional biosafet initiatives have contributed to capacity-building in risk assessment. Examples include: (i) the multinational biosafety project of the Organization of American States (http://ejb.ucv.cl/content/vol7/issue1/full/6/index.html
), (ii) the East African Regional Programme and Research Network for Biotechnology, Biosafety and Biotechnology Policy Development (BIO-EARN) which was initiated in 1998 (http://www.bio-earn.org/about.htm
); (iii) the Capacity Building for an Africa-wide Biosafety System project (http://www.africa-union.org/root/au/AUC/Departments/HRST/biosafety/AU_Biosafety.htm
); and (iv) the FAO Capacity Building in Biosafety of GM Crops in Asia (http://it.doa.go.th/asianbionet/
). Experience from those regional initiatives shows that addressing capacity-building needs at a regional or sub-regional level presents a number of benefits including maximization of existing resources.
Different models of regional cooperation could be used to facilitate in risk assessment and monitoring of LMOs. These could include regional centres of excellence and regional expert networks. Regional centres of excellence could provide high quality facilities for hands-on training and apprenticeships that would increase the number of well trained scientists in different regions. Regional expert networks would on the other hand offer opportunities for sharing information, knowledge and experiences and keep experts in the regions up-to-date with new scientific and technological developments.
A number of existing regional institutions and networks that already have the necessary infrastructure could play a more active role in strengthening the capacities of countries in risk assessment and monitoring of LMOs. Regional organizations such as the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and some CGIAR centres, such as CIMMYT, CIAT, IFPRI, ICRISAT, IITA, and others, are currently engaged in strengthening institutional and human capacity in biosafety through training, technical advice, public awareness, generation of models and support for biosafety research, according to the report prepared for the fourth meeting of the Parties to the Protocol in Bonn, Germany (http://www.cbd.int/doc/external/mop-04/cgiar-bs-en.pdf
). For example, CIMMYT is providing specialized professional training for visiting scientists/researchers (http://www.cimmyt.org/english/wps/training/categories.htm
#vs) and IFPRI with a grant from USAID is supporting research and technical training in environmental and food risk assessment in Africa and Asia.
Regional cooperation would foster better use of existing regional resources and capacities (including expertise, facilities and information resources). For example in view of the high costs involved involved in building infrastructure for biosafety training and research, it may be more prudent for countries in different sub-regions to pool resources and establish joint first-class referral laboratories. Regional cooperation would also result in better coordination and synergy between different capacity-building initiatives. Furthermore, it would enable countries to exchange views, experiences and practices and provide a platform in the identification of appropriate solutions for addressing their capacity-building needs. Ultimately, regional cooperation could offer significant economies of scale, more effective use of available resources and sustainability of capacities.
In view of the above, there is a need to strengthen regional cooperation in the areas of risk assessment and monitoring of LMOs through, among others:
- Building or strengthening partnership arrangements between institutions involved in risk assessment and monitoring of LMOs in different regions.
- Establishing regional and sub-regional networks of experts in risk assessment and monitoring of LMOs to promote better networking and information sharing at regional and sub-regional levels.
- Bringing together relevant stakeholders active in risk assessment and monitoring of LMOs through regional conferences and seminars.
- Convening regular interagency coordination meetings to improve synergies, bridge ways and means available and identify issues that require concerted action.
I would welcome additional views on how regional initiatives to capacity-building in risk assessment and monitoring of LMOs could be designed and maximised, as well as information on existing opportunities for developing more such initiatives.