Create regional genetic store, EA Community told

ARUSHA: THE East African Community (EAC) member states and other stakeholders have been urged to preserve genetic materials for future generations by establishing a regional genetic repository, as much of the genetic diversity has already been lost.

This revelation was made by the East African Community (EAC) Regional Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) during their third conference which concluded over the weekend in Nairobi, Kenya.

A press statement shared with the media by Simon Owaka, the Senior Public Relations Officer in the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Department of the EAC Secretariat stated that, the conference resulted in a resolution urging Partner States and other stakeholders to acknowledge the significant loss of genetic diversity.

As a result, EAC member states have been advised to prioritise the safekeeping of genetic materials for future generations through the establishment of a regional genetic repository.

The conference also resolved to address the misconceptions surrounding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) technology and reiterated the need to create awareness of the technology for it to be embraced in order to meet the food and other needs of the region.

It was noted at the threeday conference that most of the discussions around the adoption of GMOs were based on misinformation and rumors and that Africa could lose out on the immense opportunities offered by GMOs to boost food security, increase agricultural exports, improve nutrition and eliminate hunger.

“It was agreed that GMO experts should unpack the technology in simple terms for decision-makers and members of the public to facilitate open debate on the importance of adopting the technology,” said the statement.

While giving his closing remarks at the conference, Uganda’s Minister of State for EAC Affairs, James Ikuya, pointed out that science, technology and innovation (STI) were the driving force behind development.

He said that increasing investment in STI will enable Africa to rediscover its true potential and become a key player in the global economy.

Regarding the adoption of GMOs, Ikuya urged the experts to lead public debates and discussions on the subject to facilitate decision-making on the innovation.

According to him, simplifying terms and unpacking complex issues will be crucial for the adoption or non-adoption of GMOs in the region.

“There is an urgent need to build local capacity to communicate simply and clearly on GMOs and other technologies,” said Ikuya.

He further noted that creating a genetic bank of local species was critical for future generations, given the vast amount of biodiversity native to Africa that has nearly been lost.

Ikuya insisted that such a genome bank would also be a key source of revenue for the region, given the high cost of antique materials worldwide.

However, the theme of the 3rd STI Conference was ‘Accelerating development and diffusion of STI solutions for a resilient East Africa,’ with subthemes including ‘Agricultural Productivity, Resilience and Food Security; Health and Nutrition, Natural Resources Management, Information Communication Technology and Digital Economy.’

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