Adoption of Biotechnology for a food secure Africa

Over the last 10 years, Agricultural biotechnology has been adopted globally to increase agricultural productivity. Agricultural biotechnology uses a collection of scientific techniques to improve plants, animals and microorganisms.
Currently only four countries in Africa grow biotechnology crops, these are South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt and Sudan while others like Kenya continue to experiment. It is evident that majority of the other African countries continue to grapple with the challenges of sustaining high levels of economic growth, plunging commodity prices, and the effects of climate change.
According to the World Bank, agriculture contributes 32% to Africa’s GDP and provides employment to 65% of the labour force on the continent. In fact, in many countries in Africa, up to 85% of the workforce is employed in the agricultural sector. Furthermore, an estimated 38% of Africa’s working youth is presently employed in the agricultural sector.
At a 3.1 percent growth rate, Africa’s population was about 200 million 30 years ago; it is 520 million today and is projected to increase to 1.3 billion in the next 25 years. The continent continues to have the highest population growth rate in the world with the lowest food production levels.
Africa’s present and growing population makes it difficult to maintain adequate food consumption levels. Although global food production has reached a stage where sufficient food is produced to meet the needs of every person on earth, the per capita food production and availability has, and still remains, lowest in Africa.
The biotechnology debate is dominated by two issues that is the persistent poor performance of agriculture with associated widespread poverty, and the biosafety regulators debate on the ability of biotechnology to resolve Africa’s food crises taking into account its potential and perceived effects on the continent’s enormous biological diversity.
African biosafety regulators have a choice to either preserve the legacy of overstated risk concerns of biotechnology or work to realign the mission of their agencies with evidence and economic expectations bthOver the last 10 years, Agricultural biotechnology has been adopted globally to increase agricultural productivity. Agricultural biotechnology uses a collection of scientific techniques to improve plants, animals and microorganisms.
Currently only four countries in Africa grow biotechnology crops, these are South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt and Sudan while others like Kenya continue to experiment. It is evident that majority of the other African countries continue to grapple with the challenges of sustaining high levels of economic growth, plunging commodity prices, and the effects of climate change.
According to the World Bank, agriculture contributes 32% to Africa’s GDP and provides employment to 65% of the labour force on the continent. In fact, in many countries in Africa, up to 85% of the workforce is employed in the agricultural sector. Furthermore, an estimated 38% of Africa’s working youth is presently employed in the agricultural sector.
At a 3.1 percent growth rate, Africa’s population was about 200 million 30 years ago; it is 520 million today and is projected to increase to 1.3 billion in the next 25 years. The continent continues to have the highest population growth rate in the world with the lowest food production levels.
Africa’s present and growing population makes it difficult to maintain adequate food consumption levels. Although global food production has reached a stage where sufficient food is produced to meet the needs of every person on earth, the per capita food production and availability has, and still remains, lowest in Africa.
The biotechnology debate is dominated by two issues that is the persistent poor performance of agriculture with associated widespread poverty, and the biosafety regulators debate on the ability of biotechnology to resolve Africa’s food crises taking into account its potential and perceived effects on the continent’s enormous biological diversity.
African biosafety regulators have a choice to either preserve the legacy of overstated risk concerns of biotechnology or work to realign the mission of their agencies with evidence and economic expectations bthrough championing innovation, reframing risk, visioning technology, reforming institutions and advocating change management.
The debate on biotechnology for Africa must be considered in the context of the continent’s need for more food and the survival of its people.
Adoption of Bio-technology will provide Africa with solutions for biotic and abiotic stresses, if built into African genotypes of plants and animals; it could reduce the need for, and the high costs of, agrochemicals and water. Bio-technology could also reduce the deleterious effects of diseases and weeds, thus promoting sustainable agricultural production in Africa.
Our continent has enormous potential, to feed itself and eliminate hunger and food insecurity, while playing a major role in global food markets. This potential lies in African Governments working together with various experts and its nationals to promote the adoption of agriculture biotechnology.

Over the last 10 years, Agricultural biotechnology has been adopted globally to increase agricultural productivity. Agricultural biotechnology uses a collection of scientific techniques to improve plants, animals and microorganisms.
Currently only four countries in Africa grow biotechnology crops, these are South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt and Sudan while others like Kenya continue to experiment. It is evident that majority of the other African countries continue to grapple with the challenges of sustaining high levels of economic growth, plunging commodity prices, and the effects of climate change.
According to the World Bank, agriculture contributes 32% to Africa’s GDP and provides employment to 65% of the labour force on the continent. In fact, in many countries in Africa, up to 85% of the workforce is employed in the agricultural sector. Furthermore, an estimated 38% of Africa’s working youth is presently employed in the agricultural sector.
At a 3.1 percent growth rate, Africa’s population was about 200 million 30 years ago; it is 520 million today and is projected to increase to 1.3 billion in the next 25 years. The continent continues to have the highest population growth rate in the world with the lowest food production levels.
Africa’s present and growing population makes it difficult to maintain adequate food consumption levels. Although global food production has reached a stage where sufficient food is produced to meet the needs of every person on earth, the per capita food production and availability has, and still remains, lowest in Africa.
The biotechnology debate is dominated by two issues that is the persistent poor performance of agriculture with associated widespread poverty, and the biosafety regulators debate on the ability of biotechnology to resolve Africa’s food crises taking into account its potential and perceived effects on the continent’s enormous biological diversity.
African biosafety regulators have a choice to either preserve the legacy of overstated risk concerns of biotechnology or work to realign the mission of their agencies with evidence and economic expectations bthrough championing innovation, reframing risk, visioning technology, reforming institutions and advocating change management.
The debate on biotechnology for Africa must be considered in the context of the continent’s need for more food and the survival of its people.
Adoption of Bio-technology will provide Africa with solutions for biotic and abiotic stresses, if built into African genotypes of plants and animals; it could reduce the need for, and the high costs of, agrochemicals and water. Bio-technology could also reduce the deleterious effects of diseases and weeds, thus promoting sustainable agricultural production in Africa.
Our continent has enormous potential, to feed itself and eliminate hunger and food insecurity, while playing a major role in global food markets. This potential lies in African Governments working together with various experts and its nationals to promote the adoption of agriculture biotechnology.

rough championing innovation, reframing risk, visioning technology, reforming institutions and advocating change management.
The debate on biotechnology for Africa must be considered in the context of the continent’s need for more food and the survival of its people.
Adoption of Bio-technology will provide Africa with solutions for biotic and abiotic stresses, if built into African genotypes of plants and animals; it could reduce the need for, and the high costs of, agrochemicals and water. Bio-technology could also reduce the deleterious effects of diseases and weeds, thus promoting sustainable agricultural production in Africa.
Our continent has enormous potential, to feed itself and eliminate hunger and food insecurity, while playing a major role in global food markets. This potential lies in African Governments working together with various experts and its nationals to promote the adoption of agriculture biotechnology.

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BIOTECHNOLOGY AND BIOSAFETY IN AFRICA: PUTTING THE HORSE BEFORE THE CART KEY NOTE ADDRESS By Dr. Calestous Juma: Founder of the African Centre for Technology Studies, A professor of the practice of international development and Author. During the First African Biosafety Leadership Summit; 15th to 16th august 2016 In his keynote address, Dr. Juma explained that the African Biosafety regulators have continued to gather resistance due to un-ending discussions that transgenic crops have dire consequences among them social, environmental and health concerns. All these claims however have are not backed up by any evidence or development needs, he underscored. He further explained that, as per an exhaustive review of nearly 900 scientific papers conducted by the US National Academy of Sciences, Genetically Engineered Crops and Experiences, adoption of the Cartegena Protocol ad the national biosafety laws and policies did not consider any evidence of the adverse impacts for biotechnology. Dr. Juma further called upon the African biosafety regulators to be more supportive of safe biotechnology through five ways namely; championing innovation, reframing risk, visioning technology, reforming institutions and advocating change management. First, as champions of innovations, biosafety regulators need to explain to the general public the importance of technological innovation in economic transformation. Secondly, there is a need for framing risk management in the context of local realities taking in to account that doing nothing comes with its own risks. Thirdly, the role of technological visionary is to be rooted in history to keep an eye of the future and emerging technologies. Fourthly, biosafety regulators have a duty to function as institutional entrepreneurs who constantly introduce adjustments in regulatory activities which suit emerging technologies and needs. The regulators therefore not only need to regulate but also support the developing biotechnology industry. Last but not least, as change managers, biosafety regulators need not to put biotechnology development at the center of their operations. He commended countries such as Uganda who have not adopted biosafety laws and called upon African countries to shift to strategies that focus on safe biotechnology as the policy focus. In his concluding remarks, Dr. Juma explained that African biosafety regulators operate in difficult situations where the cart is put before the horse- “biosafety is put before biotechnology”. He emphasized that the time has come to return the cart where it belongs- behind the horse.

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Biotechnology and Biosafety in Africa: Should we put biosafety or biotechnology first? By Nora Ndege.8/18/2015. Nairobi, Kenya. There is a growing concern on how African biosafety regulators have been handled by international diplomacy. They are supposed to operate in a system where biosafety is put before biotechnology. But what really comes first? According to Dr. Calestous Juma, African countries need to biotechnology strategies that include biosafety. Thus they need to prove by providing evidence that transgenic crops have no adverse effects to the environment, they do not undermine smallholder farmer and neither do they cause adverse health impacts as perceived. According to Dr. Juma, the best available evidence does not support any technological anxieties and therefore possess a great challenge to the African biosafety regulators to revisit their mandate and become champions of safe development and application of biotechnology for sustainable development. Currently as he states, the Africa’s biosafety laws are at the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which is a supplementary treaty to the United Nations Conventions Convention on Biological Diversity. The adoption of the Cartagena protocol and the national biosafety laws and agencies signifies that there is actually no evidence of adverse effects of transgenic crops. In his new book, Innovation and Its Enemies, Dr. Juma argues the reasons people refuse change as a result of early concerns that transgenic crops are hazardous and do have the potential to cause harm. He states that this was a campaign by those who wanted to limit the adoption of the crops for selfish interests without having sufficient evidence. He therefore proposes three ways in which the African biosafety regulators can turn around the fate of their field and make it more supportive of biotechnology. First, biosafety regulators need to create more communication and advocacy messages to the public to change their perceptions and explain the role of technological innovations play in economic transformation. Secondly, there is need to address imperative risks with local realities. For example it is needless to be facing famine (as is often the case of Africa) and not produce more, or less. Thirdly is to look into the future on how biotechnology can be applied to other fields as health, industry and environmental management. Lastly, biosafety regulators needs to function as entrepreneurs who change to suit emerging technologies and needs. To bring about reforms in the biosafety industry, close cooperation with research institutions and universities needs to be enhanced. Existing laws and institutions should equally be kept under review to reflect changing needs. About the Author, Dr. Calestous Juma is a Professor of the practice of International Development at, Belfere Centre for Science and International Affairs. Harvard Kennedy School

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Dr Calistus Juma: African biosafety regulators need to reform

prof. Juma with the report: Is AU really doing anything about this report?

Prof. Juma Giving a Keynote Speech

By Suleiman Okoth
Nairobi – Kenya, August 15, 2016. The First African Biosafety Leadership Summit was held on August 15-16, 2016 in Nairobi – Kenya. The two-day Summit brought together stakeholders in biosafety regulations and agencies to access and chart the way forward for addressing overstated risk concerns of biotechnology as they revisit their mandates.
While giving a keynote address, Dr Calestus Juma, internationally-recognized authority on application of science and technology for sustainability and a Professor of Practice of International Development at Harvard Kennedy School, noted that regulators run agencies that were created on the premise that transgenic crops were likely to have catastrophic consequences for the environment, undermine small holder farmers and cause adverse health impacts.
According to Dr Juma, the best available evidence does not support the initial technological anxieties. He urged African biosafety regulators to revisit their mandates to be genuine champions of the safe development and application of biotechnology for sustainable development.
An exhaustive review of about 900 scientific papers conducted by the US National Academy of Sciences; Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects found no evidence for the adverse impacts that inspired the adoption of the Cartagena Protocol and the national biosafety laws and agencies.
Africa’s biosafety laws are the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a supplementary treaty to the United Nations Conventions on Biological Diversity. Early concerns over transgenic crops were justified as hazards, having the potential to cause harm.
In his book Innovations and Its Enemies: Why people Resist New Technologies, Dr Juma argues that the initial motivation for biosafety laws was to protect incumbent agricultural farming systems that were based on chemical fertilizers while equating biosafety to efforts in the 1940s by music industry in the United States to ban recorded sound to protect live musicians.
“Those who wanted to limit the adoption of the crops to protect their interests presented them as risks by making it look like the dangers were imminent. The precautionary principle dogma was invoked as the philosophical, legal and rhetorical foundation for seeking bans on transgenic crops with little consideration of the available evidence,” says Dr Juma, director School’s Project on Agriculture and Health Innovation Policy in Africa.
To turn around the fate of African biosafety regulators and to make it more supportive of safe biotechnology, Dr Juma advocates for championing innovations, reframing risk, visioning technology, reforming institutions and advocating change management. In his closing remarks, Dr. Juma acknowledged the difficult circumstances under which African biosafety regulators operate and challenged them to restore the logical order by returning the logical order; what he calls “returning cart where it belongs – behind the horse”.

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Nigeria Environment Minister says Biotech has role to play in Economy

The Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed has said that Nigeria is ready to

 Environment Minister: Mohamed
Environment Minister: Mohamed

deploy biotechnology to boost the economy of the country.

 

In an interview with the press after a courtesy visit to her office by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa Programming Committee (PC) Members to her office, she explained that Nigeria is blessed with experts in biotechnology and the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) is there to ensure safety application of the technology.

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Scientists Developing Climate-Adapted GM Rice

Reducing rice water intake would be a game-changer

Reducing rice water intake would be a game-changer

Genetically engineering a new strain of hyper-efficient, drought-resistant rice, known as C4, is part of a multi-national research effort the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has called one of the “10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2015.”

A team of scientists from eight countries at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, Philippines is genetically modifying certain strains of rice to reduce the amount of water required to grow the rice. Rice is a staple food crop in many countries around the world. Rice crop failures have led to malnutrition, disease, and death for millions of people over the past 10,000 years.

Rice plants grow through a chemical process known as C3 photosynthesis, which wastes a great deal of water and reduces plant’s food-making efficiency. It also makes C3 plants vulnerable to the extremely warm weather often experienced in many rice-growing regions of the world.

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Bright day for Biosciences in Kenya as NBA approves release of Bt maize

In a bold, historic move, the Kenya NBA (National Biosafety Authority) has granted approval (http://www.biosafetykenya.go.ke/images/Public_Notice.pdf ) for environmental release of Bt Maize.

History in the making: WEMA team submits application to NBA on April 2, 2015

History in the making: WEMA team submits application to NBA on April 2, 2015

This approval, which was purely based on evidence provided by the applicants, culminates a long journey that started in April 2, 2015 when the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) and African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) submitted an application for approval of environmental release of the insect protected (Bt) maize in Kenya to the Authority.

According to Dr Eliud Kireger, KALRO Director General, and Dr Denis Kyetere, AATF Executive Director, the approval will enable movement to the next step of NPTs (National Performance Trials). NPTs will lead to identification of suitable varieties that will be availed to farmers affected by stem borers.

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GM policy change will depend on local evidence, says Tanzania minister

Hon Mwigulu, Agriculture Minister

Hon Mwigulu, Agriculture Minister

The Government of Tanzania will review the biosafety regulations to allow for commercial release of GM crops based on locally produced scientific evidence to prove safety and benefits of homegrown transgenic crops.

The Minister for Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries, Hon. Mwigulu Nchemba, said this today Monday during the official opening of the 8th Annual Review and Planning Meeting of the Water Efficient Maize For Africa (WEMA) Project in Dar Es Salaam.

“On behalf of the Government of Tanzania I would like to reiterate that the revised Regulations are a first step towards a more fundamental reform of the regulatory framework, which will become more enabling over time.”

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Italian Senator exposes bad science used against GMOs globally

Italian Senator Elena Cattaneo Neuroscientist

Italian Senator Elena Cattaneo Neuroscientist

Once again the world is waking up to the good news that yet another fake research paper against GMOs has been retracted.

Such papers have been many, with the most prominent one that did a lot of damage being the so-called Seralini paper published in November 2012 but quickly retracted by the publisher after a barrage of criticism by all leading, credible scientific bodies and world renown academies of sciences. The big question is: Who is paying these scientists? Your guess is as good as mine.

The latest news doing rounds is that papers that describe harmful effects to animals fed GM crops are under scrutiny for  data manipulation. The interim findings of an ongoing investigation at the University of Naples in Italy suggest that images in the papers may have been intentionally altered. The finds will be released next month February.

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What Can We Do About the Science Communication Crisis?

We have almost no data on how specific print, television, or Internet stories influence public perception of scientific issues—and it’s crucial to find out. In the 2004 Academy Award-winning drama Sideways, Paul Giamatti’s character, a wine aficionado, makes it quite clear he doesn’t like Merlot. He prefers Pinot Noir. In a spat outside a restaurant during one of the film’s more memorable scenes, a visibly upset Giamatti screams: “If anybody orders Merlot, I’m leaving.

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