Africa's GM crop debate


Makara: Research in Africa is not only on GMOs. Other types of research are going on to address agricultural problems and constraints. Genetic engineering is used only when there are limitations to conventional breeding. You may have heard about the Water Efficient Maize for Africa project in a number of countries. Because drought is a big problem these days, especially with climate change, we do conventional research and breeding, but there is a better chance to develop resistant varieties through biotechnology. Donors also provide research funding for other research areas such as soil management.

GMO Safety: In the discussion in Europe it is often said that patents on GMOs are a problem. How is this solved?

Makinde: These new GM crops are developed in partnerships between public researchers and the private sector. The issue of intellectual property is handled by a Foundation set up primarily for this purpose, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Makara: The technology used in these crops is royalty-free and once the crops are commercialised they can be used at no additional cost by small-holder farmers. The development of new GM crops is also overseen at the national level. For instance, in Uganda work on GM crops has to be approved by the national biosafety committee. Donors and scientists have to clarify their interests and justify their project.

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