Findings from a new report issued by African Development Bank (AfDB) and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), says Africa must embrace agricultural innovations to better compete in an evolving global bio-economy,
The report, titled: “GM Agricultural Technologies for Africa,” analyses the benefits and constraints of adopting genetically modified (GM) technologies to address challenges related to population, poverty, food insecurity and climate change.
The report, which was reviewed by stakeholders at a previous conference convened by the AfDB, provides an overall, evidence-based snapshot of GM technology in Africa.
“It is not an endorsement of any position and is not based on de novo research,” a statement issued by IFPRI and copied to Ghana News Agency said.
Discussing the report at a conference in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to commemorate the African Year of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr Shenggen Fan, IFPRI’s Director-General said: “Agriculture is an economic engine for Africa, and biotechnology is among the various technologies being adopted by advanced and emerging agricultural economies and offers the potential to help millions of people become more food secure.”
He noted that IFPRI has provided biosafety assistance for the development of evidence-based regulatory systems to African countries for more than 10 years, adding: “We also maintain a robust presence as an independent policy advisor in Africa, with offices in Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Nigeria, Senegal, and Malawi.”
IFPRI and AfDB decided to focus on GM technologies in particular, as these are the most controversial, directly impacting the adoption rates of biotechnologies in Africa.
The AfDB, a major investor in agriculture, requested IFPRI’s assistance to better understand the various topics affecting the adoption of agricultural biotechnology in Africa.
“IFPRI is in a unique position to contribute due to our vast amount of work on a variety of agriculture technology topics, including GM technology adoption,” the statement said.
It said while adoption of GM technology has been proceeding in many developing countries, notably in Asia and Latin America, Africa lags behind: of 54 AfDB member countries, only Burkina Faso, South Africa, and Sudan are now planting and commercialising genetically modified crops.
Other countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and Uganda, are making important advances towards the commercialisation of GM crops. Progress in most other African countries continues to be quite limited or non-existent.
In an effort to move the debate beyond the controversies surrounding GM technologies, a research team gathered and analysed existing information about the status of biotechnology in Africa. They collected published evidence about the benefits and constraints of the adoption of these technologies.
Mr Donald Kaberuka, President of the AfDB Group, emphasised the underdevelopment of Africa’s trade in agriculture, especially intra-regional trade, in spite of the vast potential for its expansion.
“In order to meet their food and nutrition requirements, African countries import about $25 billion worth of food each year, but only about $1 billion worth of such imports come from intra-African trade.
“We must implement innovative solutions that can not only bolster agricultural performance, but also promote agri-food trade and food security,” he added. GNA