Ethiopia to draft national genome editing communication strategy to transform country’s agricultural industry

ETHIOPIA – Ethiopian Bio and Emerging Technology Institute (BETin) is receiving assistance from the Center of Excellence in Science, Technology, and Innovation of the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) to create a national genome editing communication plan.

Experts in biotechnology and media have come together as part of the national strategy development effort, which also aims to institutionalize level experience sharing, to create the national communication strategy and associated plan of action, which are expected to be validated at the start of 2023.

The concept note document of the communication strategy states; “Following the successful Genome Editing sensitization exercise that included engagement with high-level officials towards the buy-in of the tool in the following six countries: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zambia and Eswatini, a writing workshop will be held as the next step to draft and develop responsive National Communication Strategies and Action Plans for validation by stakeholders.”

Dr. Kassahun Tesfaye, Director General of the Ethiopian Bio & Emerging Technology Institute (BETin), flagged off the strategy writing workshop in Addis Ababa by emphasizing that it is challenging to fully utilize the science of biotechnology in general and genome editing, in particular, to increase the efficacy and productivity of various economic sectors without a proper communication scheme in place.

“Efforts to encourage stakeholders to participate in the evidence-based discussions coupled with awareness-raising activities should be given due emphasis at all levels, ranging from the general public to policymakers,” he said.

Dr. Kassahun attributed the effort of crafting proper communication strategies and schemes to the emergency and prospect of genome editing as well as the growing efforts of research and development (R&D) and commercialization of other biotech crops in Ethiopia including the release of TELA Maize for drought and stem borer; the genetic transformation activity initiated on Enset; the granting of Confined Field Trial Research Permit for GM Potato for blight; upgrading of the Agricultural Biotech Lab at Holeta National Biotech Research Center (NABRC-EIAR); the launching of Striga Smart Sorghum for Africa project to use Genome Editing on the preferred cultivar of sorghum among others.

Dr. Woldeyesus Sinebo, AUDA- NEPAD’s representative, stated during the event that leveraging current and new technology like genome editing, is necessary for inclusive growth and sustainable development as outlined in the AU Agenda 2063.

He underlined that in order to prevent the possibility that Africa may fall behind in adopting genome editing technologies to promote agricultural development and economic growth, it is crucial to communicate genome editing to key stakeholders, including decision-makers.

Dr. Olalekan Akinbo, also an AUDA-NEPAD Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology, and Innovation representative, stated that his organization’s role is to assist Ethiopian experts in developing their own Genome Editing Communication Strategy in order to transform the country’s agricultural industry, ensure its sustainability, and, in the end, build a prosperous nation for the next generation.

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