4 September 2013

Africa: Genetically Modified Crops - - 'Fear of the Unknown'

Photo: FAO
Les cultivateurs peinent à adopter les techniques d’agriculture intelligente face au climat.

A new report on the state of African agriculture is scathing about opposition to planting genetically-modified crops as a way of growing more food for the continent.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa titles a section of its 200-page report, released today, "The Farce about Genetically Modified Crops" and goes on to say:

The introduction of genetically modified (GM or GMO) crops has attracted much debate among seed companies, policy makers, and the general public in Africa.

First it is important to point out that GM crops have been subject to more testing worldwide than any other new crops, and have been declared as safe as conventionally bred crops by scientific and food safety authorities worldwide.

A recent European Union (EU) report concludes that more than 130 EU research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research and involving more than 500 independent research groups, concur that consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from conventional crops. Such well-known organizations as the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the European Food Safety Authority have come to the same conclusion.

Secondly and equally important, given low adoption of improved crops by smallholder farmers in most countries, GMO crops are unlikely to impact Africa food security in the near future given low marginal yield gains over conventionally bred seeds.

As of 2012, GM crops were being grown in 20 developing countries and eight industrial countries conferring beneficial traits such as herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, and nutritional enhancement.

Despite the potential advantages, adoption of GM crops in Africa has been slow and marred by controversy. At present, only four African countries --- Burkina Faso, Egypt, Sudan, and South Africa --- have fully commercialized GM crops....

Most African countries are at various stages of creating enabling environments for GM crop commercialization. Five countries (Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda) are currently conducting field trials of biotech crops, the final step before full approval for commercialization.

There is growing public opposition to GM crops in Africa that is best described as a fear of the unknown.

Unless milled, the import of GMO foods is currently banned in Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. More important to seed sector development, these bans signal the arbitrariness and unpredictability of public policy.

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