Ethiopia’s State Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, H.E. Kare Chawicha urged African governments to consider biotechnology for improving food security and overcoming economic challenges. Chawicha is concerned about the region’s vulnerability to climate change and lauded the application of advanced technologies in agriculture while speaking at a biotechnology and biosafety communication training workshop for media practitioners held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, earlier this month.

“More than 20 years have passed since introduction of biotech crops varieties, with cultivated area reaching close to 180 million hectares” he said. Despite this unprecedented growth, the minister noted that there are still concerns and uncertainties about GMOs.

He faulted the continent’s inconsistent biotechnology and biosafety policies for slow progress witnessed across the region and urged policy makers to “access cutting-edge scientific evidence and advice to be able to make the best decisions about tough challenges facing the region.”

Journalists were urged to take advantage of such media trainings to enhance factual reporting on biotechnology and biosafety since they play a key role in shaping public opinion. Getachew Belay, COMESA’s Biotechnology and Biosafety policy adviser, added that issues on biotechnology and biosafety that influence technology adoption are regularly misrepresented due to lack of proper communication with the media and packaging of the right messages.

He said that COMESA’s Biotechnology Implementation Plan (COMBIP) seeks to strengthen public awareness and communication on biotechnology and biosafety between COMESA member states.

Margaret Karembu, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications AfriCenter’s director, congratulated Ethiopia for revising its law to pave way for research and emphasized the importance of political will for an enabling biotechnology environment.

The workshop, attended by 30 journalists and editors from Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda, was organized by COMESA-ACTESA in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Forest, of Ethiopia, ISAAA AfriCenter, and the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology, Ethiopia Chapter.