A Proposed African GMO Policy has just posted a very useful overview of the issue of GMOs (Genetically modified organisms) and their potential usefulness to Africa.

After running through the key benefits and pitfalls of GMOs, the article (“Genetically modified crops can work for Africa, but only if Africa owns it“) sketches out a proposed framework for the use of GMOs in Africa:

“What is needed is good policy. Good policy on GMO’s in Africa would consist of three elements. The first is public ownership and accountability. A major problem with GM crops is their corporate nature. The only way to ensure that GMO’s would be beneficial to Africa is to strip the profit motive from their research, design, testing and regulation. And the only way to do that is public ownership.

This brings us to the second element, accountability. There is a lot of mistrust around GMO’s, the motives behind them, their ecological and health impacts and their use. The only way to assuage these concerns is transparency. No for-profit corporation will be transparent about commercially sensitive information such as its own GMO’s, but public institutions can be transparent and can be designed to be so, by incorporating stakeholders and their concerns into their design and decision-making structures to ensure that those concerns are met.

The third element is collaboration. If GMO’s are truly going to be beneficial to Africa it will require collaboration on two levels. First between stakeholders within the agricultural industry, research scientists, farmers, environmentalists, doctors, consumers will all need to come together to guide the development of GM crops for the African context. A context in which small farmers are the vast majority of farmers, where climate change and changing weather patterns are making farming harder and where growing populations require more agricultural productivity to feed them. The second level is internationally. No single African country has the ability to set up and sustainably fund institutions that can design, develop, test and disseminate GM crops over the long term. However, together they could do so. The ability to pool funding, expertise, and facilities only makes sense, especially as many African countries face similar agricultural challenges and most staple and commercial crops are grown across multiple countries.”

Read the full article at Afriwonk here.

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