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Bioscience Issues

Will EU policies on GM crops affect Africa?

This week a team of scientists from Spain and the UK published a paper on the EU’s paradoxical policies regarding genetic modification, arguing that the European Union’s often anti-GM stance will actually hurt the very issues it seems to care about most, such as sourcing food in a sustainable and environmentally-conscious matter and its own economic competitiveness. Perhaps most interestingly for readers of the B4FA web site, the authors also note that the EU’s current agricultural and regulatory policies impact the developing world.

The authors highlight the FAO’s statement that plants for food need to be more stress resistant and have higher potential yields – Europe’s population may not be growing very much, but developing countries that rely on agriculture as the backbone of their economies will continue to see dramatic population growth until 2050, from 1 billion increasing to 2 billion in Africa.

In fact, some developing countries have been hesitant to grow GM crops that have not yet been approved in Europe, out of concern that their products might not be able to be exported to the EU. This could of course have a significant impact on a smaller country’s economy if a key trading partner rejected their agricultural products.

The question that remains is whether African countries will be able to move forward at their own pace – choosing or not choosing GM crops – or will their trading and political relationships with Europe make this choice for them?

Science Omega’s Katy Edgington published an interview with the authors, “Genetic engineering policy needs modification”  to give more insight into the issue.