ISAAA AfriCenter in partnership with Addis Ababa University and Bio and Emerging Technology Institute (BETin) held a sorghum value chain stakeholder focus group discussion (FGD) on 19th July 2023 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The aim of the FGD was to determine the current status of genome editing discourse, including public perception, knowledge levels and information needs in Ethiopia.
Sixteen (16) stakeholders comprising heads of national research institute and regulatory agencies, senior researchers, university scholars, breeders and seed associations took part in the exercise. The stakeholders were selected based on a net-mapping exercise done earlier in Ethiopia that identified key actors in the sorghum value chain.
Participants’ understanding of genome editing and concerns relating to the use of genome editing in agriculture was sought. It emerged that technology developers showed a higher level of comprehension and could explain genome editing as a set of tools that enable targeted changes in the genetic material of plants for desired traits. Policy and decision-makers demonstrated a basic understanding of genome editing as a new technology that can be used in the improvement of crops for increased productivity. Technology users, technology multipliers and promoters had limited familiarity with genome editing, with some confusing it with traditional genetic modification techniques. They however recognized it as a technology with the potential for crop improvement.
Concerns that emerged from the various stakeholders included, potential risks and safety issues associated with genome editing, confusion regarding its similarity to GMOs, intellectual property challenges, health-related fears, and market preferences that might affect the adoption and success of genome-edited varieties in Africa. Notable sources of information mentioned by participants for learning about genome editing effective communication channels included, journal papers, conferences, interaction with scientists, social media, website subscriptions, newspapers and radio stations.
Some of the factors highlighted by participants to be essential in contributing to the successful adoption of genome-edited sorghum included, involvement of public institutions in communicating on genome editing, and technology developers openly communicating the benefits and details about the genome edited sorghum.
The data from the FGD will be used in development of a national strategy for engaging stakeholders in the country. Effective communication that factors societal values is a vital component in the process of building public trust and is essential for maintaining stakeholders’ support and commitment.
For more information on SSSfA project, contact Dr. Margaret Karembu at email@example.com