(Posted Tue. Sep 10th, 2013)
Sept. 10: A report released last week by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, chaired by former United Nations Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kofi Annan, details the great potential for agricultural growth in Sub-Saharan Africa and the ability of more widespread use of seed biotechnology to help drive this growth.
The report states that the yield gap for most crops could be reduced by the appropriate use of improved crop varieties; recommended application levels of appropriate fertilizers; and adequate management of nutrients, water, pests, and diseases. Further, Sub-Saharan Africa displays the greatest gaps between potential yields and realized yields for a number of crops, particularly corn and rice.
“As of 2012, GM [genetically modified] crops were being grown in 20 developing countries and 8 industrial countries, conferring beneficial traits such as herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, and nutritional enhancement,” the report states. “Despite the potential advantages, adoption of GM crops in Africa has been slow and marred by controversy. At present, only four African countries— Burkina Faso, Egypt, Sudan, and South Africa—have fully commercialized GM crops.”
The report shines a spotlight on how it perceives this reluctance to embrace biotechnology as a “farce”:
“It is important to point out that GM crops have been subject to more testing worldwide than any other new crops, and have been declared as safe as conventionally bred crops by scientific and food safety authorities worldwide. A recent EU report concludes that more than 130 EU research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research and involving more than 500 independent research groups, concur that consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from conventional crops. Such well-known organizations as the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the European Food Safety Authority have come to the same conclusion.”
The National Corn Growers Association sees great value in reports such as this, noted its president, Iowa corn farmer Pam Johnson.
“We’re happy to see this report published, because many of the same practices and technologies that have driven the great growth we’ve seen in American agriculture can translate easily overseas, once needless roadblocks are removed,” Johnson said. “It’s crucial that we take advantage of every opportunity to sustainably grow yields worldwide.”