‘World Bank Grant of $1.2 Million Will Foster Technical Cooperation on Biosafety,’ World Bank Says

Steven Bobson, Europe & Americas Editor
October 01, 2012 /

The World Bank Group has announced that it will provide US$1.2 million to fund a new global partnership formed to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to make their biosafety regulations more efficient and harmonized.

The Partnership for Biosafety Risk Assessment and Regulation brings together the non-profit Center for Environmental Risk Assessment (CERA) of the International Life Sciences Institute Research Foundation and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to strengthen and improve environmental risk assessment of agricultural biotechnologies. The partnership will support up to 10 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia that are adopting, or are considering the adoption of agricultural biotechnology.

With the three-year grant from the World Bank’s Development Grant Facility (DGF), the partnership will be a critical component of multilateral efforts to build developing country capacity in science-based environmental risk assessment to help ensure that trade, testing and adoption of transgenic (genetically modified) crops is as environmentally-sound as it is efficient. The grant is expected to leverage an additional US$6.5 million in funds from the public and private sectors.

“By bringing together two partners with distinct comparative advantages, this partnership will help to safeguard the environment while equipping countries with the tools needed for safe access to new technologies that have the potential to reduce poverty and promote food security,” said Juergen Voegele, Director of the World Bank’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department. “Equally as important is the potential for this collaboration to give developing country partners a voice, as well as the means to influence the international dialogue on an issue with significant development linkages.

CERA will actively support developing country regulators in their efforts to design and implement science-based processes for environmental risk assessment of genetically modified crops. For example, the partnership is developing tools to assess the environmental risk of food crops like cassava.

The OECD offers a global forum for capacity development and information exchange through its technical working group and task force of practitioners and regulators that seek mutual recognition of environmental and food safety information on biotechnology products. “The working level exchange of ideas has had a critical role in building consensus and bridging divergent views on how to assess and regulate GM technology,” emphasized Dr. Peter Kearns, Principle Administrator at the OECD’s Environment Directorate.

“Improving institutional and human capacity in environmental risk assessment and biosafety regulation is a prerequisite for effective engagement in multilateral forums, like the OECD,” commented Dr. Morven McLean, CERA’s Director. “Bringing developing countries to the table, can in turn, enhance technical cooperation on biosafety and transgenic crops which has a more pro-poor focus.”

The first round of countries selected to participate in the project include Paraguay, Tanzania, Kenya, Bangladesh and Vietnam. To generate multi-country benefits, the project will support joint workshops in regions, where the partner country is located.

The Development Grant Facility (DGF) provides seed money to advance innovative approaches to development; it promotes and strengthens partnerships through leveraging funds and convening stakeholders; and broadens the scope and increases the effectiveness of World Bank support – while respecting overall World Bank sector and institutional priorities. Since 1998, the DGF has channeled US$2.1 billion, and mobilized an estimated US$16.6 billion from other partners, in support to 183 programs.

 

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