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January 17th, 2019 / Alliance for Science, US

Why are South Africa and Sudan ahead of every other country on the continent when it comes to biotech? The answer is simple. The nations realized early on that they needed to embrace new technologies to develop faster maturing and better yielding disease-resistant and drought-tolerant crop varieties to counter a changing climate and soils rapidly losing fertility.

But though the two countries top the rest of continent, they are still miles away from the leading GM producers across the globe — the US, Brazil and India.

The report “Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2017”  showed 67 countries used biotech crops, out of which 24 (including the two African nations) grew multiple varieties. Global hectarage of biotech crops stood at 189.8 million in 2017, up from 185.1 million in the prior year.

Aside from South Africa and Sudan, 11 African countries — Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda —sustained biotech crop research, with 14 traits on 12 crops under various stages of development.

But indecision by political leaders in these countries, due partly to a rise in anti-GMO activism, is threatening to ruin these strides. The leaders know the benefits but don’t know whether to press ahead with the technology, said Humphrey Mutaasa, director of partnerships at Uganda National Farmers Association. Read more