A book on biotechnology in agriculture has been launched in Accra with a stress on the importance of political will towards agricultural biotechnology in solving food and nutritional security in Africa.
The 291-page book, dubbed ‘Biotechnology in Africa – Emergence, Initiatives and Future’ is a collection of science policy reports from African scientists based purely on their experiences with the use of biotechnology in agriculture in different parts of the continent.
Edited by Florence Dr Wambugu, Chief Executive of Africa Harvest and Daniel Kamanga Communication Expert of the Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation, the book for the first time, offers African voices from multidisciplinary fields to be allowed to set the continent’s biotechnology development agenda.
Dr Wambugu noted that the book has come at a time when the debate on the safety of biotechnology has heightened, particularly with the advent of the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agricultural production.
She confirmed that Africa has made a tremendous shift from general discussions and was focusing on the safety of plant biotechnology to a concrete exploration of crops and traits deemed useful for various African countries.
She noted that Africa’s political and scientific leaders were demanding a greater say in how research and development funds were allocated and spent and argued that Africa’s political leaders must see both clear benefits and have elbowroom to drive the change required.
“This is the way African governments can employ workable policies, sustainable biosafety legislation and regulation and respond effectively to public-private partnerships”.
Dr Wambugu stressed the need for strong political will on the part of African leaders to apply biotechnology to revolutionalise agriculture on the continent.
“There is also the need to ensure that we do not only fight for food security but ensure that we make food nutritious for the people to benefit from eating their agricultural produce”, she added.
Dr Ismail Serageldin, a renowned scientist, in his foreword in the book, said “Many of the essays capture the fact that globally, the number of countries that cultivate genetically modified (GM) crops continues to increase; Africa and more specifically, South Africa, Burkina Faso and Egypt have joined fast-developing economies such as China, India and Brazil”.
Africa, he said can boast of a number of GM confined field trials for maize, cotton, sweet potato, banana, cowpea, cassava and sorghum but there are still challenges related to strengthening national research systems with regards to infrastructural and human capacity.
“This book was a clarion call on African leaders from African scientists from Africa. While there is no doubt that Africa has turned the corner, there is still the need for courage and firmness when it comes to the GM technology”, he added.
He was of the view that, the urgent need to increase agriculture productivity and the increased acceptance of the technology gives African political leaders a window to move to the next level.
Professor Walter Sandow Alhasssan, a Biotechnology Expert commended the authors of the book and said biotechnology when embraced will help solve the food security. GNA