EPA Ends Risk Assessment Workshop On GMOs

A two-week training workshop on risk assessment and risk management of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) has ended in Monrovia.

Fifteen National Biosafety Committee members from various ministries and agencies, including the private sector   participated in the workshop.

The training was organized by the Environment Protection Agency of Liberia with financial and technical supports from the United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility.

According to Mr. Johansen T. Voker, National Focal Point for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the workshop was aimed at building capacity at the national level for effective risk assessment of GMOs in order to avoid or minimize the adverse impacts on biological diversity and human health.

The training is one of several capacity building initiatives under the Liberia National Biosafety Framework Implementation Project and also seeks to enable Liberia put in place a functional biosafety system that would ensure the safe use of modern biotechnology in compliance with the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety when Liberia acceded to the protocol in 2002.

In her official opening statement at the workshop, Madam Anyaa Vohiri, Executive Director of the EPA acknowledged the importance of modern biotechnology as   useful scientific tool to enhance agricultural production in the wake of population expansion, environmental stresses and the rising cost of food.  However, Madam Vohiri cautioned that the necessary measures are put in place to address any   potential adverse effects on human health and environment that may arise from the application of the technology.  “It is this critical balance that must be maintained,” she stressed.

Risk assessment is critical to the decision-making tools under the protocol by the Competent Authorities in consideration of application for importation of LMOs. It sets the various scientific perimeters that have to be satisfied by proponents before permission is granted to bring in LMOs into a country under the Protocol.

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety requires state parties to conduct risk assessment in support of decisions regarding the importation and release of LMOs in the environment and human health.

Liberia became a party to the Protocol in 2002 and executed its first project from 2002-2004 which resulted into the formulation of several legal and scientific instruments.

They include policy, Act, public awareness strategies, custom regulations on the importation and handling of LMOs at ports of entry among others. The current project (National Biosafety Framework Implementation Project) is putting into effect the various instruments developed and at the same time, updating others. The ended training is one key component of the activities under the current project which ends in 2015.

The training workshop was facilitated by Mr. Alex Owusu-Biney, biosafety portfolio Manager at UNEP and Flora Ismail Tibazarwa, Director Life Sciences, Tanzania Commission for Science & Technology along with local resource persons.