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Genetically Modified Crops in sub-Saharan Africa

IFPRI (the International Food Policy Research Institute) has released an issue brief on genetically modified crops in sub-Saharan Africa and their role in agricultural development. The report argues that many policy makers in sub-Saharan Africa lack information about GM crops’ potential, benefits, costs, and safety.

IFPRI writes that the current low level of GM crop adoption observed in Africa is partly a consequence of the current state of biosafety regulatory frameworks. GM crops have to comply with many policies, laws, and implementation biosafety regulations that traditional and organic crops do not have to observe. Many countries are also said to lack functional biosafety regulations. Low GM crop adoption can also be attributed to a low level of research and development (R&D) investments which hinder the development of indigenous GM crops.  In order to increase the intra-African trade the IFPRI report argues that regional biosafety procedures and a regional regulatory decision-making process should be established.

It also says that the current policy environment impedes biotechnology development since it is based on what is described as a costly, European precautionary approach, despite clearly diverging agricultural and development priorities and  ignoring African needs and realities. Lastly, it says that the risk of exports to European nations falling as a result of GM adoption is relatively small in the short and medium term but there has been a history of exaggerated risks and there is a need to make assessments on a case-by-case basis. The challenges of market access and import regulations could be addressed by more regional integration and better GMO trade regulations. 

The reports finds that current GM crops have had, on average, a positive economic effect in African countries south of the Sahara but that the magnitude and distribution of economic benefits will, to a large extent, depend on the crop and trait involved and the institutional setting where the GM technology is introduced.

You can read more and download the synopsis of this issue-brief on the IFPRI website here.

Falck-Zepeda J, Gruère G, Sithole-Niang I, 2013 International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

You can also read more the GMO debate on our website here and here.

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