The purpose of this overview is to provide readers with a snapshot of the status of GMO regulation and application in Africa. The various maps below therefore categorise African countries based on the status of their National Biosafety Frameworks (NBFs) and list GM crops application in terms of late stage research and development (field trials) and commercial use.


The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) was adopted as a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on 29 January 2000. Forty-nine (49) of the 170 countries that have ratified or acceded to the Protocol are African countries. As Parties to the Protocol these countries have agreed to ensure that the requirements of Article 2 (General Provisions of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety) are met. Implementation of the Article 2 requires countries to establish a functional NBF comprising the following key components:

  • a policy on biosafety, which is often part of a broader national policy on biotechnology;
  • a regulatory regime for biosafety, which usually consists of a law or an act in combination with implementing regulations;
  • a system to handle notifications or requests for authorisations for certain activities, such as field trial releases of GMOs in the environment. The system typically provides for public participation and risk assessment and public participation;
  • a system for monitoring and enforcement and
  • a system for public information, i.e. a system to inform stakeholders about the development and implementation of the NBF.


NBF status

NBF status categories were defined as follows:

  • Functional NBFs are those that have met the basic obligations of the CPB. They have the necessary and appropriate legal, administrative and other measures to ensure that the development, handling, transport, use, transfer and release of living modified organisms are undertaken in a manner that prevents or reduces the risks to biological diversity. Risks to human health are also considered.
  • Interim NBFs have partially met the provisions of the CPB to the extent that it enables them to commission research and development (R&D) activities involving GM crops in containment and confinement. These countries are not involved in the commercial release of GM crops. Most of these countries are developing policies and legislation on GM crops, which is yet to receive full parliamentary and/or cabinet endorsement in the respective countries.
  • ‘Work-in-progress’ NBF status have been receiving support for developing functional biosafety systems from United Nations Environmental Program – Global Environment Facility (UNEP-GEF) and Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS). None of these countries are conducting any work going on GM crops and where research is conducted it tends to be limited to contained laboratory investigations.
  • No NBF status is assigned to countries that have not made significant efforts towards developing frameworks for regulating GMOs.


International databases

For more details on each individual country’s NBF and GMO application please refer to the following databases:

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