GM Crops and their Controversy in Africa: Part One

by Developed Africa 16. September 2013 09:00

GM crops and whether they should be used in Africa has become a source of controversy

The use of GM crops in Africa is currently only commercially used in South Africa, Burkina Faso, Sudan, and Egypt, countries across the rest of the continent do not currently do so due to governments banning the use because of environmental hazards and human health risks.

The use of GM crops is widespread in the US and that is where most of the pressure is coming from for African countries to embrace it, however Europe is virtually GM free, and it is argued by many that the problems of GM should not been enforced from the US.

Writing for the Guardian online blog Million Belay (director of MELCA-Ethiopia) and Ruth Nyambura (Head of Communications & Advocacy at the African Biodiversity Network), are strongly against the introduction, and practical enforcement, of GM crops onto African countries from the West and North. There are number of reasons for their objections, but foremost is that the hassle is not needed, arguing instead that African farmers are already using seeds and crops that have adapted to withstand various problems that crops might face:

having many different types of seed-... which have evolved with local pests and diseases and are adapted to difficult soils and weather patterns- is a far better strategy of resilience than developing a single crop that is bound to fail in the face of climate change"

This is one of the best arguments against the use of GM crops in Africa, they could cause far more issues than they might solve, and they possibly are just not needed, as African farmers and their crops seem to have adapted fairly well to adverse conditions.

On top of this, it is important to recongise the difficulty African farmers and suppliers might face if they do embrace GM produce in terms of dealing with countries who do not allow GM products to be grown in their own countries. For example dealing with the EU could become complicated, and as one of their largest export areas in the world, it would not be good for the African economies. It is evident that the EU have great concern about the use of GM crops, as we can see from the various clashes they have had with the US in trade forums over the matter. An article from BD Live explains the same thing:

The biggest hurdle for African countries to negotiate in the GM question is possible sanctions from their biggest agricultural export market, the European Union (EU)"

Therefore, it is important to consider what exactly moving to GM crops would do for Africa, and the problems it would cause, before outright deciding that it would be a good thing just because it improves crop yields. 

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