More in this section

Bioscience Issues

Dr Edward Mabaya

Genetically Modified Crops In Africa: Current State And Future Potential

Principle Investigator: Edward Mabaya (Cornell University)


The ability of GM crops to increase yields and reduce pesticide use is well established. Based on food security needs, Africa could benefit a lot from green biotechnology given the low agricultural productivity especially among smallholder farmers and the looming food crises in most urban areas. However, the adoption of GM crops in Africa has been slow and limited to a handful of countries owing to a variety of reasons including relatively under-developed seed systems. The primary objective of this research is to develop a systematic understanding of the current state and future potential of GM crops in Africa in a way that informs public policy and private strategy. The barriers and enablers of GM acceptance will be evaluated within the context of seed sector development. Through a comprehensive survey of seed companies operating in Africa, attitudes and strategies towards biotechnology will be accessed. The analysis will be based on both cross sectional data (comparing African countries that have adopted GM crops versus similar countries that have not) and time series data.

The research project will answer the following four groups of inter-related questions:
In which stage of seed sector development are individual Sub-Saharan African countries and what are the implications of this development process on commercialization of transgenic crops. This question will be answered by classifying individual countries into development stages based on key characteristics of the seed sector and making inferences on the potential of GMO adoption?

What is the current state of enabling environments for genetically modified crops in each African country. A factual update on the status of regulations for each country including year and status of CBD, CPB, GMO policy, National Bio-safety Authority, trials, and commercialization.  This will be complimented by a discussion of the key drivers of change in regulatory environment including the role of global bio-diversity, famine/food crisis, donors and civic organizations, economic competitiveness.   This work is being done in close collaboration with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF)?

What are the current attitudes towards genetically modified crops by seed industry representatives in Africa i.e., private seed companies, government agencies, research institutions, and nongovernmental organizations involved in the research, production, regulation, and dissemination of seed in Africa. This will be answered through a seed industry survey. Three hundred responses have been collected to date from seed industry representatives across the African continent?

What are the emerging lessons in Africa on the role of GM crops in efficient production and the enhancement of domestic and international marketing services? To address this question the research project will make temporal comparisons on the competitiveness of maize grain market in South Africa (comparing performance data before and after adoption of GM crops).  A paper analyzing the effects of GM maize adoption on wholesale prices in South Africa has been submitted for presentation at the International Conference of the African Association of Agricultural Economists?

Findings from each of the above research questions will be disseminated through peer reviewed journal articles, presentations at professional meetings and popular press articles.