September 29, 2014—Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire—Africa must embrace agricultural innovations to better compete in an evolving global bio-economy, according to findings from a new report issued by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
The report, entitled “GM Agricultural Technologies for Africa,” analyzes the benefits and constraints of adopting genetically modified (GM) technologies to address challenges related to population, poverty, food insecurity and climate change. It will be discussed on September 29, at a conference in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, commemorating the African Year of Agriculture and Food Security.
“Agriculture is an economic engine for Africa,” said Dr. Shenggen Fan, IFPRI’s director general. “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.”
The African Development Bank, 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. We have provided biosafety assistance for the development of evidence-based regulatory systems to African countries for more than 10 years. We also maintain a robust presence as an independent policy advisor in Africa, with offices in Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana, 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. 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 commercializing genetically modified (GM) crops. Other countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and Uganda, are making important advances towards the commercialization 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 analyzed existing information about the status of biotechnology in Africa. They collected published evidence about the benefits and constraints of the adoption of these technologies.
The report was reviewed by stakeholders at a previous conference convened by the AfDB. The report 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.
Donald Kaberuka, the president of the African Development Bank Group, emphasized 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,” he said. “We must implement innovative solutions that can not only bolster agricultural performance, but also promote agri-food trade and food security.”
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. Founded in 1975, IFPRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium, http://www.cgiar.org/, a global research partnership for a food secure future.