The third ECOWAS Ministerial Conference on Biotechnology opens in Accra on Tuesday to deliberate on issues pertaining to biotechnology in the sub-region.
The four-day conference, to be attended by about 200 agricultural and environmental ministers, biotechnology experts, international agricultural scientists, farmer groups and civil society would be under the theme: "Adoption of 2006-2010 Action Plan for Meeting of the Challenges of Biotechnology and Bio safety".
A statement signed by Mr Edward B. Karkari, Chief Technical Adviser for the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment, said the Ministerial session, which takes place on the last day of the conference will examine and adopt the 2006-2010 Action Plan for the development of biotechnology and bio safety within the ECOWAS region. The first three days would have the experts discussing critical issues pertaining to the theme.
It said the Action Plan was focused on measures deemed as necessary by the Ministers for the development of a regional approach to biosafety, biotechnology application and a biotechnology information, communication strategy and policy.
The Plan of Action was prepared by the ECOWAS Commission in line with the decision taken by the ministers at their second meeting held in Bamako, Mali in June 2005.
ECOWAS Ministers at various meetings had resolved to develop the capacity for the safe use of modern biotechnology in agriculture as sub-Saharan Africa continues to face drastic food shortages, it said.
It attributed the problem to pests, diseases, declining soil fertility and drought, input and market constraints, poor policy development for agriculture and low research support. The resulting food security problems are associated with the decline in socio-economic well-being.
The first ministerial conference on biotechnology was held in June 2004 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.