Can GM crops save africa?

Author:Jacobs, Sherelle
Position:GM INDUSTRY - Genetically modified

It is ironic that for a continent where the majority of people make their living from farming, Africa should have the lowest productivity of all other regions in the world. Africa imports over $20bn worth of food every year and is still the most malnourished region on earth. Countless studies have been made and several 'green revolution schemes have been tried but the situation has improved only marginally. Is there a silver bullet through the myriad problems surrounding African agriculture and deliver the sort of output volumes the continent needs? Are genetically modified (GM) crops the answer Africa has been waiting for? But the issue of GM crops has divided the world with equally strong pro and anti camps. An increasing number of African countries have taken small steps towards GM crops hut others want nothing to do with it. Who is right? Sherelle Jacobs consults industry experts to produce this comprehensive report on the status of GM in Africa today.

Genetically modified (GM) crops are controversial in Africa. Sudan put restrictions on aid containing GM food in 2004 as the Darfur crisis raged. Two years earlier, Zambia rejected GM food aid while the country was in the throes of a vicious famine that left 3m Zambians on the brink of starvation. In 2011, the Kenyan government sacked the head of the country's National Biosafety Authority over alleged plans to import food aid that potentially contained GMOs during that year's drought.

Currently, just three sub-Saharan African countries - South Africa, Burkina Faso and Sudan - grow genetically modified organisms (GM0s). To some, resistance to GM could be costly to a continent that spends over $20bn a year on food imports and where one in four people go hungry. The number of people without enough food in Africa increased from 175m to 239m between 2010 and 2012, which indicates that the slight progress made recently up to 2007 has effectively been reversed.

Multinational seed companies, such as Syngenta, argue that GM crops are an important potential lifeline for African farmers: "Biotech GM crops can offer farmers value and reduce the time it takes to grow crops and reduce inputs," says Kinyua M'Mbijjewe, the head of corporate affairs in East Africa at the multinational seed company Syngenta. "In terms of Africa's quest for food security, biotech technology should be part of the solution. The high adoption rates of GM seeds after they were allowed in South Africa and Burkina Faso is also...

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