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THE SOUTHERN AFRICAN NETWORK OF GM DETECTION LABORATORIES

Why SANGL

Whilst all SADC countries are party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety that requires Parties to take measures to regulate, manage or control the risks associated with the use and release of GMOs/LMOs, its domestication into national law in various member countries has been slow. Major constraints include inadequate levels of both human and infrastructural capacities in key areas required for effective regulation of the technology.

RAEIN–Africa and its Partners identified among others, the need to build capacity in GMO detection (both human and infrastructure) in the SADC region. Genetic Modification (GM) detection plays an important role in ensuring GM traceability and segregation; compliance with National regulations in terms of GM labelling; compliance with international regulations for trade; and monitoring and surveillance to ensure compliance with regulations at all levels.

RAEIN Africa allocated resources to implement the SANGL project for the period 2009 to 2013 with the main objective of establishing a functional regional Network for GM detection laboratories in the SADC region to support the implementation of National Biosafety Frameworks in compliance with the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

The specific objectives of SANGL are:

  1. To build and strengthen human and infrastructural capacities for GMO detection in Southern Africa
  2. To establish guidelines and harmonised methods for sampling and GMO detection in Southern Africa based on internationally accepted approaches
  3. To achieve international recognition (accreditation) in GM detection in all member laboratories
  4. To establish linkages and partnerships with other international GMO detection laboratories and Networks as well as other institutions and
  5. To establish an interactive communication platform for GMO detection laboratories

 

Participating Laboratories

Laboratories participanting in SANGL were endorsed by their national competence authorities as laboratories used or could be used by the authorities in carrying out their mandate. At the time of establishment, the Network comprised 17 laboratories from nine SADC countries endorsed by the Biosafety Competent Authorities in each country. These are Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe (see launch proceedings).

The Network has since grown to 24 laboratories with the participation of Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho and Madagascar laboratories.

The Network envisages establishing new partnerships with other strategic organisations such as Donors, other Laboratory networks and laboratories, standards setting bodies as well as other local/international bodies and institutions to ensure sustainability. The support from National Goverments is highliy appreaciatted.

 

SANGL Activities

Some of the ground breaking activities that have been conducted to date by SANGL include;

A Training of Trainers workshop in GMO Detectionat the University of Free State, 27-30 September 2010: The GMO Training of Trainers Workshop was held with the aim of training participants on a range of techniques required for detection of Genetically Modified Organisms including sampling techniques, qualitative and quantitative GMO detection among others (see proceeding).

SANGL planning meeting. A planning meeting was held in August 2011, in Johannesburg, South Africa. At the meeting, a detailed plan of activities was developed. The meeting was also important in identifying national and regional issues that require attention in meeting the objectives of SANGL. On the basis of the identified issues at both national and regional level, RAEIN-Africahas is working on raising additional resources required by the Network to fully address the issues.

Proficiency Testing: A proficiency trial was conducted amongst laboratories that have benefited from GM detection skills training under the Network. The exercise was led by the GMO Testing Facility of the Free State University and coordinated by RAEIN-Africa. Nine laboratories from seven SADC countries i.e. Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe participated in the proficiency test trial. The test results showed that the level of competence of the laboratories in the methods they are using is generally satisfactory although gaps still remain.

Networking and Support: SANGL coordinators have over the years provided technical support and advise to network laboratories.

Creating a Database of Regional Experts: RAEIN-Africa has been working on putting together a regional database of experts from which member countries can tap into for technical expertise.