NCSTorganizes a journalists sensitization workshop at Livingstonia Beach Hotel


Journalist pose for a group photo at the biotech media workshop at Livingstonia Beach Hotel in Salima

The National Commission for Science and Technology in conjunction with International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA) and the Programme for Biosafety Systems (PBS) organized a journalists’ sensitization workshop which took place at the Livingstonia Beach Hotel in Salima on 20th and 21st November.

The workshop brought along 13 journalists from the main media houses of Malawi and it had the following objectives;

  •  Introduce participants to the basics of biotechnology and biosafety
  • Familiarize participants with the role of Malawi institutions in research and regulation of GMOs
  • Create awareness about the global, regional and national status of GMOs
  • Introduce participants to principles of effective biosafety communication
  • Equip participants with skills for identification of biosafety concerns, packaging and publishing of balanced stories on biotechnology

Practical Session: DNA extraction to understand how genetic engineering ensues

Facilitators in the workshop were scientists and researchers drawn from the Department of Agriculture Research Services, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the institution that is carrying out the Confined Field Trials for Bt Cotton and communication experts including Dr Margaret Karembu from ISAAA. Among the facilitators also was the Chairperson of the Cotton Development Trust who is also one of the farmers to have gone to Burkina Faso to witness the benefits of growing Bt Cotton there.
In his speech opening the workshop, the Director General of NCST Mr. Anthony Muyepa Phiri stressed on the importance and timeliness of this workshop saying there has been a lot of misinformation and fear mongering on GM crops and he believed this has been due to the lack of correct information on the part of the media and he said he was sure that at the end of those two days the right information will be inculcated to the media and that the issues of misreporting this technology will be a thing of the past.
The workshop approach was participatory and interactive with presentations, group works, practical sessions and the participants also had chance to conduct a DNA extraction so as to understand how genetic engineering ensues. The practical sessions allowed the participants to develop stories and by the end of the meeting the groups had frameworks of feasible stories.
The presentations were in three categories namely Biotechnology, biosafety and effective biotechnology and biosafety communication.

Participatory and interactive group works

Participatory and interactive group works

It is hoped that having done this sensitization workshop, the misinformation that has been common place when reporting issues to do with biotech crops will no longer be an issue.