BIENTOT UN INSTITUT NATIONAL DE BIOTECHNOLGIE A MAURICE
Un atelier de travail portant sur la création future d’un institut national de biotechnologie s’est déroulé le 24 janvier 2017 à Port-Louis. Déjà, a rappelé le ministre de l’Agro-industrie et de la Sécurité alimentaire, Mahen Seeruttun, le National Biosafety Committee a été reconstitué en mars 2015. Le comité doit conseiller sur tous les aspects concernant l’exportation, l’importation, le transit, le développement, la recherche, la production, l’utilisation, l’application, la commercialisation, la vente et la dissémination d’organismes génétiquement modifiés. Des actions pour la révision de la GMO Act de 2004, partiellement proclamée, ont été initiées.
Ci-dessous le discours du ministre Seeruttun dans son intégralité.
“I am delighted to be present amongst you for the opening of a very important workshop on the setting up of The Mauritius Biotechnology Institute.
Biotechnology has a very broad meaning currently, ranging from basic research in medical and pharmaceutical fields, to environmental science, agriculture and food production.
It is unconceivable today to think of a world without biotechnology.
It has become an indispensable tool in our daily life, it is all around us and is influencing our lives, providing breakthrough products and technologies to combat diseases, reducing the environmental footprint and feeding the hungry.
Today, there are more than 250 biotechnology health care products and vaccines available to patients, many for previously untreatable diseases.
More than 13.3 million farmers around the world use agricultural biotechnology to increase crop yields, prevent damage from insects and pests and reduce farming’s impact on the environment.
While biotechnology is an opportunity to be seized for technological innovation, we must also be aware that the science of biotechnology should not operate in a vacuum.
It requires a structured approach with well-trained technical and scientific personnel and investments as well as appropriate legal framework.
We should admit that Mauritius, so far, has been timidly involved in biotechnology.
This is exemplified by the very few institutions involved in biotechnology. For example:
We have only a few tissue culture laboratories producing tissue cultured plantlets,
We also have a few testing laboratories and a few private companies offering molecular diagnostic tests,
There is only one institution dealing with plant molecular breeding and genetic mapping.
The MSIRI under the aegis of the Mauritius Cane Industry Authority, FAREI and the University of Mauritius are the few institution that address biotechnology in their research and development programme.
Consequently we have not been able to tap the full extent of this technology.
This “état de lieu” is partly explained by the present lack of human resources strategic facilities for research and development, and innovation and regulatory bodies.
My Ministry is committed to redress this situation.
As you may be aware, I have reconstituted the National Biosafety Committee in March 2015.
This committee is an advisory committee set up to advise on all aspects concerning the importation, exportation, transit, development, research, production, use, application, marketing, sale and the release of Genetically Modified Organisms (“GMOs”) or on any other matter concerning GMOs.
Furthermore, I have already initiated actions to review the GMO Act 2004, which was only partially proclaimed in 2004.
I understand that a revised draft of the GMO Act is already available.
The associated regulations to accompany this law are being finalised.
All these initiatives will assist to protect human, animal and environmental health, protect consumers in making their choice regarding GMOs, and maintain an international quality and safety standards that facilitate trade.
This year, I am paving the way so that the GMO Act be fully proclaimed for it to play its regulatory functions.
I am also making provision for the setting of the National Biosafety Office in my Ministry to deal with the administrative matters pertaining to Biosafety, GMOs and to cater for the enforcement of the law.
Mauritius has achieved remarkable economic success over the years.
The country is now ready to transform itself into a high-income economy.
Innovation has been recognized, as the key driver of economic growth in terms of wealth generation and job creation and Biotechnology is one of the vehicles of innovation that could contribute positively towards this vision.
Government firmly believes that Biotechnology can make significant contributions to our national priorities particularly in the area of human health, environment, agro-industry and the agricultural sector.
Application of biotechnology will be critical to help Mauritius meet the new challenges facing us such as climate change, new pests and diseases outbreaks and growing demands for food, feed, fibre and biofuels in the years to come.
Today Brazil, is a clear example of what can be achieved with a full application of biotechnology.
Brazil has indeed made significant progress in applying biotechnology through high investment in the training of its local scientists abroad and presently Brazil is one of the leaders in biotechnology amongst developing countries.
Brazil has now the capacity to address its local problems and it is recognised as one of the biggest energy producer from renewable energy to have the biggest fleet using duel fuel vehicle using gasoline and ethanol.
And Brazil is also one of the leaders in agricultural production and technology.
In the region, South Africa is another good example where biotechnology has given several positive outcomes.
Mauritius has the potential to be a key player in the field of biotechnology in the region in the near future.
Already, the MSIRI has a well-defined R & D programme in biotechnology and the activities undertaken are comparable with similar sugar research institutes around the world.
It is imperative that similar initiatives are taken in the non-sugar crops, livestock and other sectors in Mauritius.
This will allow the country to respond to some of our major challenges such as food security, climate change, health, energy, environment and conservation.
Mauritius would also be in a position to tap in a first instance the potential of the regional market and African region for biotechnology products such as biopharmaceuticals and functional food among others.
You would recall that during the Budget speech 2016-2017, provision has been made to undertake a feasibility study for the setting up of a Mauritius Biotechnology Institute.
Indeed during the past decade, several reports have been prepared following the feasibility study for the setting up of a National Food and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute in 2002.
These reports have rightly demonstrated the urgency of the setting up of Biotechnology Institute.
They have also clearly spelt out that the setting-up of such an Institute needs to cater for both human and financial resources.
However, there have also been diverging views on the scope of biotechnology that this institute would cover.
From what I have gathered, some of us advocate that there should be a national institute gathering under one roof all fields of biotechnology including pharmaceutical, marine, industrial, and agricultural biotechnology.
In this context, it is rightly pointed that it might bring efficiency in the utilisation of resources including human, institutional and financial.
But, on the other hand, I have also been made to understand that bringing all these fields under one roof might yield practical difficulties, as each biotechnology field is specific and the requirements and needs can be very different.
I am sure that the debate on the scope could be long and prolific.
As I have mentioned, the application of biotechnology is vast.
It is not a single and simple discipline, but a series of specialised tools and technologies that would contribute to a range of scientific disciplines including physical, chemical and biological sciences.
The aim of the workshop today is thus to brainstorm and to come up with the most ideal and pragmatic mission for a biotechnology Institute for Mauritius.
I believe that one of the major outcomes of this workshop would help to determine the scope of the activities of a Biotechnology Institute and to define its priorities.
With these words, I declare the workshop open and I wish you fruitful deliberation on the setting up of a Mauritius Biotechnology Institute and I shall look forward to be briefed on your findings.”