Faced with unpredictable harsh weather conditions more and more African Countries are changing their stance against genetically modified (GM) crops to help improve on farm yields and feed a growing population.
For long GM food has been viewed with suspicion by many African governments with vicious debates taking place across the continent on the benefit and pitfalls of these new technology.
Of the 28 countries today growing transgenic crops, only four are in Africa – South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt, and Sudan, Climate Change News reported.
Kenya recently became the latest African country to allow GM crops — at least on a trial basis.
The country like many other horn of Africa nation has faced serious drought spells in recent years that has forced the government to request for food aid from international agencies including United Nation’s World Food Program.
Changing weather partners, partly caused by globally warming due to industrial affluence produced by developed nation factories, is however changing this perception as rain-fed food crop become more and more difficult to rely on in Africa.
“Only African scientists or those working in Africa know the desires of African farmers and consumers and we should not hesitate to use new equipment and techniques to ‘genetically sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes’ of thousands of indigenous African crops,” said Dr Getachew Belay, a senior biotechnology policy advisor at COMESA.
Most of the food consumed in Africa is produced by small-scale farmers, who have been a focus of aid and development groups from all over the world.
According to the UN conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 2010 report, Africa’s capacity to provide food has declined by one-fifth over the past 40 years. This has been proposed as a reason why the continent should adopt genetically engineered crops.
South Africa, Africa’s largest producer of corn, has had to import modified maize from Mexico and the US this year as a drought caused by El Nino weather since last year cut yields in the country.
The country is expected to reap the smallest harvest in nine years in 2016 after the country suffered the lowest rainfall ever recorded.
According to Professor Calestous Juma of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in the US – who also co-chairs the High-Level Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation of the African Union –, African government should be more open now to GM crops now than ever before due to adverse climate change.
“People are not waiting for engineers, scientists and researchers in order to adapt to climate change. They are aware of the phenomenon, they feel it around them and they have adapted to it,” Euloge Agbossou, head of the hydrology laboratory at the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin, told SciDevNet.