African Perspectives on Genetically Modified Crops
July 1, 2010
The authors gauge the current status of the debate on biotechnology in Africa with a snapshot of three countries at different stages along the spectrum of opinion on genetically modified crops (GMOs): Zambia, where a strong emphasis on the precautionary principle remains very much in place; Kenya, where recent legislation has opened the door to eventual commercialization of GM crops; and South Africa, where GM food crops are widespread and where elaborate regulatory capacities are fully established. The authors look at what practical steps countries are taking to settle the question and examine the wider issue of what debates around GM technology say about the role of science in Africa. The research is based on interviews conducted with policymakers, scientists, farmers’ groups, anti-GMO campaigners, and other interest groups in all three countries in October through December 2009.
This report supplements the work of the CSIS Task Force on Global Food Security, chaired by Senators Richard Lugar and Robert Casey. Its final report, Cultivating Global Food Security, published in April 2010, calls on the U.S. government to pursue a multifaceted response to food insecurity, driven by strong White House leadership, focused on specific country needs, and drawing on the strengths of the research community and the private sector. The role of GM technology in enhancing food security does not feature prominently in the work of the task force, but because the issue arises frequently in U.S. discussions on boosting agricultural productivity, it is worthwhile to examine how African opinions are evolving. This report does not take a position either for or against GM technology. Instead, it seeks to highlight current thinking on GM crops in three sample countries; identify the drivers of these discussions; and offer thoughts on how the debate about GMOs might play out in the future.