Trade and Tribulations

An Evaluation of Trade Barriers to the Adoption of Genetically Modified Crops in the East African Community

Agricultural biotechnology holds great promise in contributing to Africa’s socioeconomic development. This is confirmed by a growing body of literature analyzing the positive economic effects at the farm level, and also for a growing number of farmers in Africa. However, with the exception of Burkina Faso, Egypt, and South Africa, the African countries have been slow adopters of biotechnology crops for cultivation. Trade concerns are often cited in sub-Saharan Africa as a reason for taking a precautionary approach to genetically modified (GM) crop adoption, which may result in forgone benefits for farmers and society at large and have a negative impact on a country’s food security situation. This study aims to evaluate the barriers that the adoption of GM crops by the East African countries poses for their trade with neighboring countries, with their other trade partners in Africa, and with their international trade partners. It is based on a literature review of recent studies analyzing the actual and potential trade implications of adopting GM crops, with a particular focus on the East African countries. This literature review is complemented by an analysis of recent agricultural trade statistics. In addition, the perspectives of key stakeholders and policymakers in East Africa have been included vis-à-vis the trade implications of adopting GM crops.

John Komen and David Wafula