By Gift Briton
As one of the emerging research activities in Africa, experts have noted that it is imperative to create awareness among judges and lawyers on the essence of biotechnology research including national biosafety laws, international instruments, social and political challenges in biotechnology so that they can make decisions and arguments that are shaped by reason and understanding of issues arising from the topic.
In this regard, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) through its TELA Maize Project working together with African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), held a two-day workshop in Adama, Ethiopia, to help judges and lawyers enhance their understanding on the scientific aspects of biotechnology and biosafety as well as to review and analyze legal and regulatory framework applicable in granting biosafety approvals.
According to Dejene Girma (Ph.D.), Director of Agri-biotechnology EIAR, “the present and future engagements of the judiciary in such interactions would facilitate access to scientific information required for them to deal with their possible court cases and to assist biotechnology scientists undertake their research activities without cumbersome and unlawful interference by courts.”
The same was reiterated by TELA Maize Project PI (Project Investigator) in Ethiopia, Tesfaye Disassa (Ph.D.) when he stressed on the importance of awareness creation among judges and lawyers about biotechnology noting, “judges should be more aware that they are playing a role of great importance in their decisions if they are equipped with scientific knowledge and information.”
Dr. Tesfaye said that this in turn would create a convenient operational environment for biotechnology research scientists and others involved in the that field, adding that judges and jurists need to become better acquainted with scientific questions and learn to exchange ideas with biotechnology scientists.
The event which was officially opened by EIAR Director General Dr. Feto Isimo, was attended by judges from the Ethiopian Federal Instance Courts, lawyers, pertinent legal officers from EIAR and Addis Ababa University as well as Science Journalists where, Jane Achando, AATF Legal Officers, also shared experiences of handling of biotechnology cases in courts, especially related to Genetically Modified Crops, in Kenya and Nigeria. In addition, it was also pointed out that AATF would also extend its support to other African countries to conduct similar program and help legal personnel the acquainted with the basic of biotechnology and render effective legal services.