Monday, October 1, 2012

Are Nations In Africa Looking To GMO Crops As Answer For Food Independence?

Food Security, according to the World Food Summit of 1996, exists “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. 

This definition takes into account both physical and economic access, availability and use of food that meets people's dietary needs as well as their food preferences. In Europe and North America, people are increasingly becoming socially conscious to eat ethical – most times opting for “clean” pesticide-free food.

In sub-Sahara Africa, however, where the food imports of most countries far outweigh local production levels, the ‘luxury’ of choosing what to eat is yet to gain momentum as people would rather dream of sufficiency in food availability.

The introduction of appropriate water management systems to use as irrigation, increasing use of fertilizers and improved seeds and preserving natural resources are critical to securing a greener Africa, said Prof. Richard Mkandawire, Advisor and Head of Agriculture Unit at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

“It can be as green as national governments are committed to reforms in policy to ensure that there is an enabling environment, to allow the private sector to participate in the agricultural sector” he added.

To improving food security and agricultural growth in Africa, the adoption and use of new technologies are imperative, which in turn will require more and better investments in Research and Development as well as transfer of technologies.

The African Green Revolution Forum 2012 will be exploring the subject of applying technologies to build the foundations for rapid growth in agricultural productivity. There are thorny and debatable issues with the adoption of certain agricultural innovations like genetically modified seeds, which are being pushed as alternatives to combat low crop yield of farmers who are battling with poor soil fertility, pests and diseases.

But Daniel Otunge of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) believes it is high time Africa explored the potentials of GMOs to be agriculturally productive.

“There are a number of countries within even the European Union who are growing the GM crops”, he said, noting that about 90 percent of maize and soyabean sold on the world market is genetically modified, mostly to meet demands in the EU.

“Therefore, my advise to African leaders is that we really need to think for ourselves and look at what is good for us without having to look at Europe because most European countries do not have food insecurity problems”, said Mr. Otunge. “Our farmers cannot even afford fertilizers, they cannot afford herbicides, they cannot afford pesticides; now if there are technologies that can reduce these burdens of framers, then we need to evaluate them, using our trained scientists and regulators and them adopt them and avail them to our farmers”. - Kofi Adu Domfeh, Joy Online

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