Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net
With only three African countries – South Africa, Egypt and Burkina Faso – commercially growing genetically modified (GM) crops and others including Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria carrying out field trials, Africa remains at a crossroads on how to tap into the potentials of biotechnology to address her myriad food and development challenges.
In an emotive presentation at the ongoing ASJC on biotechnology titled ‘Promises and Reality of the GM Revolution’, Professor Eucharia Kenya, the director at the International Centre for Health Interventions and Research in Africa, pointed out that biotech crops are a product of innovation and there is the need to “manage change as an opportunity, not as a threat”.
Professor Kenya also noted that conventional crop improvement alone will not double crop production to cater for the burgeoning world population, which is expected to shoot up to nine billion by 2050.
“We need a crop improvement strategy that integrates the best of the old [conventional methods] and the best of the new [biotechnology] to optimize productivity and contribute to food, feed and fibre security and address climate change,” said Eucharia.
Which way for Africa?
While answering the question, Kenya noted that there is need to engage in discussion on biotechnology issues. “We need to communicate with society objectively and consistently. Choices must be made from informed points of view,” she said.
According to Professor Kenya, inadequately developed legal and institutional frameworks for GM regulations, thin capacities for inspection and monitoring compliance and inadequate fora for public engagement are some of the regulatory challenges facing sub-Saharan countries.
This blog post is part of our Africa Science Journalists Conference 2012 blog, which takes place 20-23 August in Nakuru, Kenya. To read news and analysis on science journalism please visit our website.