A two-year UN study of internationally funded training programmes in biotechnology and biosafety warns that as many as 100 developing countries are unprepared to effectively manage and monitor the use of modern biotechnologies, leaving the world community open to serious biosafety threats.
The report, from the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies, says training and management deficiencies in most countries of Africa, Central Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean, are so pervasive and broad that there is no effective international system of biosafety at the moment.
In addition, the global resources available from donor countries and agencies, already inadequate to help developing countries meet basic international agreement obligations, are being cut back. It is estimated that, over the past 15 years, just $135 million has been invested globally by public and private sources in capacity building in developing country.
The UNU-IAS assessment, released at this months Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn, takes no sides on genetically modified organisms and other biotech-related controversies. It was designed simply to shed a neutral, independent and objective light on international biotechnology and biosafety training programmes intended to allow developing countries to make and implement informed choices.
Among other questions examined:
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- Are current capacity building initiatives directed towards particular policy or regulatory outcomes?
- Do they drive the policy process in developing countries?
- Are capacity building initiatives in biosafety and biotech demand driven?
- How can integrated capacity building be provided given lack of international consensus about nature and extent of risks posed by Living Modified Organisms?
- Are regional approaches appropriate for capacity building in biosafety and biotech?
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