Common regional regulatory standards can increase approval rate of biopesticides and enhance trade – ICGEB hosts STDF Project Technical Working Group Meeting

From 23-24 June 2022, the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the project, Enhancing Trade Through Regulatory Harmonisation and Biopesticide Based Residue Mitigation in the SADC Region, which is funded by the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), and implemented by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), met in Cape Town, South Africa.

The two-day meeting, hosted by ICGEB Cape Town’s Dr Dennis Ndolo (Biopesticides Group Leader and Project Manager), was facilitated by Ms. Karen Hope, Programme Specialist for the ICGEB Biopesticides Group, and Mr. Luis Suguiyama (previously of the US Environmental Protection Authority).

The TWG is working towards the development of harmonised guidelines for biopesticide regulation – initially between the participating countries (Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe) and ultimately for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Biopesticide usage (particularly for late-season pests) has the potential to minimise pesticide residue levels in harvested produce, thereby mitigating residue violations in export markets, and hence promote trade. This calls for efforts to increase the rate of regulatory approval and commercialisation of this relatively nascent pest control technology. The development of effective regulatory guidelines can facilitate increased biopesticide approval by regulators and hence promote greater registration and commercial adoption of these products. Developing common regulatory standards between countries (regulatory harmonisation) would enable them to benefit from, among others, reciprocal acceptance of registration data generated, or registrations concluded elsewhere, and hence enhance biopesticide product registration and use for chemical pesticide residue mitigation and trade promotion.

The process of developing harmonised regulatory guidelines is, however, usually the relatively easier part; the more challenging step is usually to have provisions of these guidelines incorporated into national regulatory processes’ Dr. Dennis Ndolo

Meeting delegates included regulatory officials from the participating countries, as well as representatives from other government departments and project partners; including Mr. Jonathan Mudzunga (Director: Directorate of Agricultural Inputs Control, Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development [DALRRD], South Africa), Ms. Debbie Muir (Specialist Programme Manager: Department Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment [DFFE], South Africa), Ms. Debbie Perry (Board Member: South African Bioproducts Organisation [SABO]), and Mr. Olalekan Akinbo (Supervisor: African Union Development Agency – New Partnership for Africa’s Development [AUDA-NEPAD] – Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology& Innovation [CoE STI]).

Prof. Ereck Chakauya, AUDA-NEPAD Network Manager of the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio), observed that innovations that can make food production efficient, sustainable and eco-friendly (as what is being undertaken under the project) need to be encouraged and supported. SANBio encourages the region to scale-up technologies and innovations that have been proven to work in any of the member states. He observed that as the current project on harmonisation of biopesticides guidelines is being piloted in six member states, it will be necessary to scale up the validated work to the wider SADC region and ultimately ensure that the project has an impact on trade in the region.

Mr. Loitseng Sebetwane, Chair of the Southern African Pesticides Regulators Forum (SAPReF), emphasised that SADC (the regional body bringing together all the countries in Southern Africa) must play a critical role in the process of developing harmonised regulatory guidelines for the region. He further noted that developing harmonised biopesticide regulatory guidelines is in line with the SAPReF strategic vision, and as one of the SADC sub-committees (under the Plant Protection Technical Committee), SAPReF would take the lead in working with the regional body and its member states to ensure that the guidelines could ultimately be considered for domestication/adoption in the various countries.

As a way forward, Dr. Ndolo urged TWG members to remain focused on working with their respective countries to facilitate the adoption/domestication of the guidelines to be developed under this project. Related to this, a report on the steps that countries would need to take to domesticate the guidelines was recently published. Given that excessive data demands from regulators have often made it difficult for small companies to get regulatory approvals, Dr. Ndolo urged TWG members to, in the process of developing these guidelines, ensure all data that would be required of registrants is only that which is useful for purposes of product approval and registration.

For more information on the project please visit: www.sabiop.co.za