RWANDA – Rwanda’s Parliament has approved the draft law governing biosafety in a historic move to address the potential risks associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), protect biodiversity, and preserve the environment.
The legislation, approved by the Cabinet in July, aims to pave the way for responsible development and application of biotechnology, aligning with Rwanda’s Vision 2050 that envisions high living standards and a transition to an upper middle-income country by 2035 and high-income status by 2050.
The bill, composed of five chapters and 34 articles, lays down 10 key provisions to ensure the safe and sustainable use of GMOs. Among these provisions, the law establishes a National Biosafety Committee, tasked with reviewing GMO-related applications and advising the environmental management authority.
Additionally, Institutional Biosafety Committees will regulate contained use and confined field trials, while activities involving GMOs will require permit applications.
The legislation emphasizes the importance of risk assessment and management concerning GMOs. Applicants must provide a mandatory risk assessment report, carefully evaluating potential impacts on human health and the environment.
To further ensure safety, individuals carrying out GMO-related activities are required to develop risk management and post-release monitoring plans.
The National Biosafety Committee plays a crucial role in the process by conducting risk assessment report reviews.
Following these reviews, the committee provides recommendations to the authority to guarantee the safe usage of GMOs. In certain cases, the authority may exempt GMOs from specific requirements if there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that they pose no significant risk.
The draft law sets out strict penalties for violations. A person found in violation may face administrative fines ranging from Rwf1 million (U.S$839) to Rwf5 million (U.S$4,237).
Offenses, such as conducting unauthorized confined field trials, providing false information to secure permits, or obstructing authority, carry severe penalties, including imprisonment for up to five years and fines of up to Rwf20 million (U.S$17,146).
Rwanda’s commitment to fostering innovation and ensuring environmental preservation has drawn international attention. T
he United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognizes the importance of GMOs in enhancing crop resilience and boosting agricultural productivity. However, concerns about the potential risks have underscored the need for comprehensive regulations, making Rwanda’s biosafety law a pioneering effort.
As Rwanda takes a decisive step towards embracing biotechnology while safeguarding its ecological heritage, the nation is setting an example for other countries seeking to balance progress with environmental stewardship.
The law’s approval by Parliament is only the beginning; the responsible parliamentary committee will scrutinize it, and the Lower House’s Plenary Sitting will vote on its final enactment.