Speech: Results Dissemination Of Bt-Cotton Confined Field Trials

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At The Workshop For Results Dissemination Of Bt. Cotton Confined Field Trials  Targetting Scientists In Universities And Public Institutions  By Anthony Muyepa,  Director General, National Commission For Science And Technology, Livingstonia Beach,  Salima, 1st November 2013

Salutations:

  • The Secretary for Agriculture and Food Security or his Representative;
  • The Secretary for Environment and Climate Change or his Representative;
  • Vice Chancellor for LUANAR or his Representative;
  • Directors of Different Institutions;
  • Distinguished scientists;
  • Members of the Press;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure this morning to address my fellow scientists who have gathered to discuss the results of the first season of Bt. Cotton Confined Field Trials (CFT). Before I proceed, let me join the previous speaker to welcome you all to this important meeting. You have been gathered from prestigious institutions of repute in science, technology and research and your coming here shows the importance of the matter that you are to discuss here today.

The objective of this meeting, is to discuss results of the Bt. Cotton CFT as one way of collectively owning the final publication of the results and building an alliance among yourselves to be able to jointly undertake biotechnology research in Malawi. .

Director of Ceremonies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Government of Malawi recognizes the important role that Biotechnology can play towards economic growth and poverty reduction. The meeting here is mainly to discuss the just ended results of the CFT and the processes that were followed in the course of the trial. I will leave it up to the experts to talk more on Bt. Cotton and the trails itself. Having said that let me take this opportunity to underscore the importance of biotechnology in general and how we can harness its power to develop crops that are high yielding, pest and disease resistant herbicides and drought tolerant and high nutritive value. Other applications include diagnostic kits; new drugs and vaccines; industrial microbial inhibitors; biocatalysts and enzymes just to mention a few.

Biotechnology will help Malawi to speedily attain food security and create wealth for the nation so as to achieve socio economic development as specified in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS). Biotechnology will play a big role towards transforming Malawi from being a predominantly importing and consuming economy to a predominantly producing and exporting economy.

To show its commitment, to this issue, Government of Malawi has put together the National Biotechnology and Biosafety policy which expresses the Government’s desire to develop biotechnology capacity to increase agricultural productivity, improve human health and nutritional well being; conserve biodiversity, natural resources and the environment and subsequently to create wealth through commercialisation and trade in products and services derived from biotechnology innovations.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Policy also strengthens existing institutions in order to facilitate the safe acquisition, development and application of biotechnology. It should also be mentioned here that the development of this policy emphasizes the Government of Malawi’s commitment to International instruments that relate to biotechnology to which Malawi is party and signatory. These instruments include the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for food and Agriculture and the Cartagena Protocol on Bio safety to the convention on Biological diversity. The policy, Ladies and Gentlemen, intends to provide a framework for a more effective implementation of Biotechnology programmes and activities in Malawi. It outlines the background, rationale and linkages with other relevant policies, key challenges and barriers and it also indicates responsibilities of beneficiaries and stakeholders among other things.

Ladies and Gentlemen; I will quickly give you a brief run through of the contents of this policy so that for those of you who haven’t had a chance to read it, you should have an idea of what is contained therein.

Its mission is to promote the assessment, development and acquisition, dissemination, and application of relevant biotechnologies that fulfil the needs of the local institutions, nutritional well being, health, agricultural, environmental and trade sectors, national and international obligations through provision of an enabling framework in order to improve the quality of life for all Malawians.

The policy has a number of guiding principles namely;

  • Assurance of long term household and national food security in Malawi;
  • Promotion of human nutrition, health and safety;
  • Protection of Malawi’s biodiversity and natural resources;
  • Promotion of sustainable agriculture and economic development for the benefit of both present and future generations;
  • Promotion of gender equality and equity in biotechnology undertakings;
  • Promotion of traditional crops, animal species and indigenous knowledge;
  • Promotion of trade and the last guiding principle; and
  • Promotion of bioethics values and practices in the assessment, development and application of biotechnology.

 

As you can see Ladies and gentlemen, these guiding principles are cutting across disciplines.

The overall goal of the policy is to attain sustainable socio economic development through research, acquisition and use of traditional and modern biotechnology while protecting human and animal health, environmental safety and international trade.

The overall policy objectives of the policy are as follows

  • To develop coordinated strategy through a National Biotechnology Programme to assess, develop, prioritise and apply traditional and modern biotechnology- based products and services that address the issues of health, nutrition, food security and food safety, industrial development, environmental protection and safety
  • To promote biotechnology research and development which is morally and ethically responsive and sensitive to the health of local communities, their culture and environment
  • To establish a commitment to finance biotechnology and biosafety by government, private sector and funding agencies
  • To strengthen the capacity for the development and commercialisation of Biotechnology within government, research organisations, academic institutes and the private sector
  • Promote awareness, understanding and knowledge of biotechnology at all levels of society in Malawi and lastly
  • To develop short, medium and long term national, regional and international collaboration and partnerships for biotechnology in Malawi.

Ladies and Gentlemen this policy also pays particular attention to a number of themes and you will realise that the themes I am about to mention are very critical to the acceptance and appreciation of Biotechnology. The thematic areas are as follows;

  1. Agriculture, Food and Nutrition
  2. Food safety and the consumer
  3. Health
  4. Biodiversity, Natural Resources and the Environment
  5. Research and Development
  6. Biotechnology Acquisition, Commercialisation and Trade
  7. Public Awareness, Participation and Education
  8. Capacity Building
  9. Intellectual Property rights and Socio- Economic considerations
  10. Collaboration in Biotechnology Development and finally
  11. Bio safety

You will realise that the framers of the policy made sure they have addressed the fears and misunderstandings of Biotechnology so that its uptake and application shall receive the blessing of Malawians from all walks of life.

The National Commission for Science and Technology with one of its mandate to promote biotechnology in this country, we are particularly pleased that we can facilitate this free and open dialogue on the results for the first Confined Field Trial in the country. We believe that once you scientists have endorsed the results then we can further facilitate wider dissemination of the results to the greater public and policy makers.  Let me also express my gratitude to the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) for technical and financial support to Malawi. Their support has made our gathering here possible. I am confident that by the end of the day we will be one step ahead in agreeing what the next steps should be in moving the Bt. Cotton CFT forward and indeed other opportunities that Malawi can take advantage of in as far as biotech is concerned.

Distinguished scientists, Ladies and Gentlemen with these few remarks let me wish you fruitful deliberations and declare this workshop open.

I thank you for your attention.

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