Media sentiment around genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and biotechnological developments in agriculture was generally positive in July 2023, with notable coverage on various African platforms, predominantly in Kenya and Nigeria. Out of 27 stories, 21 projected a positive sentiment while six showed a negative or neutral stance.

In Kenya, President Ruto’s plan to support cooperatives and the partnership with county governments in developing the cotton and leather industries was positively highlighted in The Star. This story had a strong reach of 625,000. Other well-received reports include the introduction of a new drought-resistant maize variety in Siaya County (Citizen TV Kenya, reaching 6,080,000) and Kenya’s potential to leverage gene editing in combating Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (The Star).

However, a dissenting narrative was also present. The Star reported on objections from a group of farmers and consumers who argued against GMOs. In another development, Capital News reported a Kenyan court’s extended order barring GMO importation, adding to the legal hurdles in GMO adoption.

In Nigeria, the potential benefits of biotechnology were emphasized across several reports. Particularly, the National Biotechnology Development Agency’s assertion of how farmers are already benefiting from GM cowpea and Bt cotton received widespread attention.

Negative sentiment emanated from the Health of Mother Earth Foundation’s plea against GMO imports due to alleged health and environmental risks. Additionally, a South African NGO, the African Centre for Biodiversity, expressed its disapproval of a court ruling regarding a GM maize variety.

In Uganda, the need for biotech adoption was stressed by scientists at an agricultural event. They urged for legislation supporting biotech use as the nation’s crops are severely virus-stricken. The same sentiment echoed in Rwanda with the introduction of a new biosafety bill to regulate GMOs.

In general, the potential of GM technology in boosting agricultural productivity and ensuring food security was emphasized across the majority of the news coverage. Nevertheless, concerns around health, environmental impacts, and the influence of multinational corporations remain a part of the ongoing discourse. Future communication efforts should continue to address these concerns by sharing accurate information about the benefits and risks associated with GM technology.