Researchers and experts continue to call for increased adoption of biotechnology, citing the technology as one of the key tools required to address growing food demand as well as other challenges the world continues to face. Findings indicate that reduced pesticide use, increased global farm income, reduced global carbon emission, and improved global food production continue to be realized with the adoption of biotech tools.
During a webinar hosted by African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) on “Biotechnology as a tenable solution to address hunger in Africa,’’ the experts revealed that the more we delay adoption of the technology, the more the continent’s farmers continue to lose out on its benefits. The dilemma has been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic, where it emerged that more than ever before, adoption and implementation of the technology is prudent, and a delay is much more expensive in the long run.
Dr. Margaret Karembu, ISAAA AfriCenter’s Director, indicated that the pandemic had brought about unprecedented disruption of production and distribution of food, which is raising the continent’s food insecurity further. There is, therefore, need to facilitate the transition of biotech crops in research and development pipelines to commercial levels so that farmers are able to access these superior crops, she noted. “There is need to trust science and the application of science-based efficient regulations if we have to mitigate losses,” she said adding that there’s also an importance in tapping into new breeding tools such as genome editing which cuts across agriculture, health, environment and industry. Dr. Karembu further stressed the need to address mis/disinformation to ensure adoption of the technology, as well as limited know-how on plant breeding, and stagnation of local biotech private sector growth.
According to Godwin Lemgo, the Regulatory Affairs Manager (Africa) at Bayer Crop Science, political goodwill and the governments’ commitment is a key policy and regulation enabler for stimulating the adoption and deployment of biotech across Africa. “To be able to effectively adopt crop biotechnology, we need risk-proportionate science-based policies that provide process clarity, data requirement and harmonization, confidential business information protection, liability redressing systems for encouraging the deployment of the technologies and predictable decision-making processes,” asserted Lemgo.
A successful case of adoption of biotechnology has been seen in Argentina whose first genetically modified crop was approved in 1996 according to Dr. Martin Lema, a professor at Quilmes University in the country. Argentina, he indicated, currently has 60 genetically modified crops from which farmers can choose from depending on their needs. The trust that the Argentinians have for their Government’s proper and working regulatory framework, according to Dr. Lema, played a key role in motivating comprehensive biotech adoption in the South American country.
AATF’s PBR cowpea Project Manager Dr. Abdourhamane Issoufou Kollo observed that Africa bears the heaviest brunt of food insecurity saying this calls for more government support and intervention. “We have very good and able scientists who can do the job but we need more funding for research and development especially in biotechnology,” he appealed.