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New Biotechnology  Volume 30, Number 2  January 2013

RESEARCH PAPER

Review

Africa’s inevitable walk to genetically
modified (GM) crops: opportunities and
challenges for commercialization
James A. Okeno1, Jeffrey D. Wolt1, Manjit K. Misra1 and Lulu Rodriguez2
1
2

Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products (BIGMAP), Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011-3228, USA
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011-1180, USA

High relative poverty levels in Africa are attributed to the continent’s under performing agriculture.
Drought, low-yielding crop varieties, pests and diseases, poor soils, low fertilizer use, limited
irrigation and lack of modern technologies are among the problems that plague African agriculture.
Genetically modified (GM) crops may possess attributes that can help overcome some of these
constraints, but have yet to be fully embraced in the mix of technology solutions for African
agriculture. Cognizant of this, South Africa, Burkina Faso and Egypt are steadily growing GM crops on
a commercial scale. Countries like Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda are increasingly field-testing these
crops with the view to commercialize them. These countries show strong government support for GM
technology. Progress by these first adopter nations provides an insight as to how GM crops are
increasingly being viewed as one of the ways in which the continent can invigorate the agriculture
sector and achieve food security.
Contents
Background and introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Government commitment and political will . . . . . . . .
Development of legislative and regulatory frameworks .
GMO legislation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
GMO regulations and guidelines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
National biotechnology strategy/policy . . . . . . . . . .
Support for GM technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Public awareness for informed decision-making . . . . . .
Capacity to handle approval processes . . . . . . . . . . . . .
South Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Egypt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Kenya. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Uganda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Challenges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Inadequate public investment in biotech R&D . . . .
Cartagena protocol on biosafety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Socio-economic concerns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mandatory labeling of GMOs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Corresponding author: Okeno, J.A. (jaketch@iastate.edu, james.okeno@nepadbiosafety.net)

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www.elsevier.com/locate/nbt

1871-6784/$ - see front matter ß 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nbt.2012.09.001

. The growth in poverty and hunger in this region is linked to under performing agricultural sector [2]. .4 3463. . . .5 Millet 722. . . . . . . .5 Source: FAOSTAT [6]. Burkina Faso first commercially planted IR cotton in 2008 on 8500 ha [17]. . . .6 6061. . . Africa) entered the 21st century grappling with starvation and food insecurity.3 2873. . . . . . . . Kenya. . .1 1096. . . . . . . .7 million and $15. cereal production remains conspicuously low compared to the rest of the world as shown in Table 1 [6].0 4354. .3 3038. . . . . . . increasing food insecurity. negligible investment in biotech R&D. . . . . . . . . . . .3 4390. Actually. .elsevier. . . .5 million from herbicide tolerant (HT) soybeans (2001–2009) and $2. . . the total aggregate farm income gain in 2009 was $14. . . . . References. .7 Wheat 2543. . Cognizant of these benefits. . . . . . . . . . primarily due to lack of political support or ‘political will’. . an area that has widened to about 1000 ha in 2009 [18]. . . .com/locate/nbt 125 Review New Biotechnology  Volume 30.8 3842. the net benefits would be $11–50 million per year [13]. . . . . The political dimension of GMOs was (and still is) the outstanding problem on GMO-regulation worldwide [23]. . a vigorous agricultural sector is necessary to reduce poverty. . . a country bears the brunt of non-functional legislative and regulatory frameworks. . .4]. www. . .5 7941. . cumulative farm income benefits were $643. .3 1886. . By delaying the approval of GM banana. . If Benin were to grow Bt cowpea. some African countries have placed more energy in field-testing and the commercial production of GM crops. The application of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been proposed within the technology mix to improve Africa’s agricultural productivity [8. . . . .2 1912. . In West Africa. . . due to Egypt’s inability to secure a license for the supply of seeds [19]. . .8 Barley 1665. . . . . . .0 3741. . Ghana would reap net returns of $920/ha if it grows GM tomato that is resistant to tomato yellow leaf curl virus. . . . In South Africa.2 million hectares [16]. . . . . . . . . . . and conversely. . REVIEW . . The area devoted to GM crops in South Africa has expanded considerably since 1998 so that by 2010. . . . . .4 1403. . For Burkina .3 2028. . . . . . . .000 ha by 2010. . . . indicating a 126% growth rate and an adoption rate of 65% [16]. . . To do so. . . . . .1 2814. . and travel frequently to Europe both on official and TABLE 1 Yield estimates of selected cereals in Africa compared with the rest of the world Crop Yield (kg/ha) Africa Asia South America North America Europe World Maize 1942. improve nutrition and upgrade income of the poorest members of the society – particularly in agriculture-based African economies [3. . . . . Uganda foregoes potential annual benefits ranging from about $179 million to $365 million per year [15].6 million over two-year period (2008–2009) [11]. . . .8 2957. . . . . . . growing Bt cotton can earn net benefits per year of $7–67 million for Mali. .4 4793. . $5–52 million for Benin. . . . . . rapid scientific and technological advances and increasing commercialization of GM crops elsewhere have led to a paradigm shift. . . . . . . lack of access to proprietary technologies. Without a ‘political will’ and government support. . . . . . . . . . . .4 5161. . . .6 2923. . . .1 10. .2 4378. . . .1 million from IR cotton (1998–2009). . . the area devoted to IR maize has remained the same.8 4451. . In the continent. . . . . . . . . it stood at 2. . they need to sustainably intensify production by combining genetic and agro-ecological technologies that require only small amounts of additional labor and capital [7]. . . . Background and introduction Sub-Saharan Africa (hereafter.6 883. . .7 4328. the lack of ‘political will’ for GM technology widely observed in most countries is mainly attributed to Africa’s policy-making elites who often were educated in Europe. . . . .000 ha by 2009 [18] and 260. .0 Sorghum 904. Number 2  January 2013 . Currently. 129 129 129 130 Faso. . . . The threat of Africa’s low agricultural productivity could be addressed by innovative science [5]. . . $23. famine and malnutrition. . . . . . . . . . . . However.9 1724. . . . . .7 792. . . moving the debate on GMOs from the confines of scientific and environmental groups to the center of public policy and politics in Africa [10]. $4–38 million for Cote d’Ivoire and $1–7 million for Senegal [12]. . Acknowledgements . That acreage has increased to 115. Some ex ante economic impact analyses in Africa also indicate benefits from growing GM crops.4 million from insect resistant (IR) maize (2000–2009). .1 3448. . . In 2010. . . paddy 2612. $4. . scientific uncertainties and anti-GMO activism. . Egypt first commercially planted IR maize in 2008 on 700 ha [17]. .9 Rice. . . . But Africa took a long time to embrace GM technology. .8 1191. . yet most African farmers have land assets that are adequate to provide food security and to rise above subsistence. But GM technology is not a silver bullet and needs to be applied alongside the conventional crop improvement approaches. . The benefits that can be derived from GM crops are now becoming evident in Africa. . . it is experiencing unprecedented levels of poverty. . .3 2333. . .Provisions for public participation in approval process Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . .5 million from HT maize (2003–2009) [11]. . . . .271. . .3 6137. . . . Uganda and Nigeria are now fieldtesting more GM crops in wider swaths of land. . . . send their children to European schools/ colleges. . . . . $4–41 million for Burkina Faso. . . . . . low public awareness [19–22] and inability to handle approval processes. $1542/ha from GM cabbage that is resistant to Diamondback moth and $784/ha from GM African eggplant that is resistant to shoot and fruit borer [14]. . In Africa. . . . . . it registered the world’s highest proportion of undernourished people (30%) in 2010 [1]. . . . . .9]. .

biological diversity or the environment. since 2006. represented a very steep learning curve for Africa. Furthermore. South Africa published its initial GMO regulation in 1999 and has amended it several times. while currently using Ministerial Decree No. or both. and Ministerial Decree No. reviewed successive drafts of a proposed. These legal frameworks share important aspects that allow for GMO development to move forward and do not specify strict liability and redress as well as not advocating for stringent precautionary measures before approval. Egypt empowered its Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation (MALR) to issue three enabling decrees: Ministerial Decree No. These elites prefer highly precautionary European-style regulations for GMOs. South Africa. Uganda’s Draft Biosafety Bill is still pending.com/locate/nbt . nongenetically modified crops. 1648 (1998). Egypt has. Kenya. In addition. Development of legislative and regulatory frameworks GMO legislation Legislations and policies must be in place to build a country’s competence to handle biotech R&D and commercialization (Table 2). it requires a person who cultivates any genetically modified crop to prevent any contamination or commingling of the genetically modified crop with any non-genetically modified crop. These standards for approval of GM crops in Zambia have been described as ‘prohibitively high’ [27]. Progress on adoption of GM crops despite challenges that have been faced by these countries provides a roadmap for eventual wider adoption of GM crops throughout Africa. for example. Elements of biosafety frameworks to regulate GM products are statutes passed by parliament and specific GMO regulations linked to these statutes that are implemented and administered by a designated department or ministry. By contrast. whereas Uganda must first enact its Biosafety Bill before commercialization can occur. Nigeria aims to move activities from CFTs to the commercialization phase. and so these statutes essentially close the door to GM crops in countries where they have been adopted. Zambia’s Biosafety Law advocates taking preventive measures even where there is lack of scientific evidence on the threats of any damage of GMOs to socio-economic conditions. TABLE 2 Enabling legislative and regulatory frameworks for approval of biotech crops in 1st six biotech adopter nations in Africa Country Regulatory framework Biosafety act/bill Biosafety regulations/guidelines Biotech policy/strategy South Africa Biosafety Act No. field trials. Burkina Faso passed a GMO Act in 2006. Egypt. It describes the state of affairs in GM R&D and outlines the challenges these nations face in integrating GM technology into their food production systems. comprehensive biosafety bill. 2 2009 Biosafety Regulations 2011 National Biotechnology Policy 2006 Uganda Draft National Biotechnology Safety Bill 2008 CFT Guidelines 2006 National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy 2008 Nigeria Biosafety Act 2011 Biosafety Guidelines 2001 National Biosafety Policy 2006 126 www. failure to which he/she commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand penalty units or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years. support for GMOs. therefore. The promulgation of new laws and implementing regulations and guidelines to deal with GMOs has. These elements are discussed separately in detail in the following sections. Burkina Faso. 85 (January 25.elsevier. whereas Kenya enacted its biosafety law in 2009. 1995). 1648 (1998) as the legal foundation for commercialization [26]. and commercialization. 15 of 1997 and its amendments (GMO Act No. Uganda and Nigeria – the six first adopter nations are committed to GM technology. human and animal health. Countries adopting this stance would like to see benefits without significant risk and adverse socio-economic impact. Zero risk is neither practically achievable nor scientifically defensible. which promulgated biosafety regulations and guidelines for GMO research and field trials. GMO regulations and guidelines A GM-enabling environment is anchored on regulations and guidelines that specify the conditions for research. African nations are late to the table in terms of both their technical and procedural knowledge of how products derived from DNA technologies should be regulated. and currently awaits Presidential assent. 2 1997 GMO Regulations 1999 Draft GMO Regulations 2008 National Biotechnology Strategy 2001 Burkina Faso Biosafety Act 2006 GMO Regulations and Guidelines 2004 No stand-alone Biotech Policy Egypt Draft Biosafety Bill 2006 Ministerial Decree No. 2006). Whereas developed countries throughout the world have long-standing regulatory regimes extending as far back as outcomes of the Asilomar Conference [25]. 23. public awareness strategy and increased capacity in approval process. Nigeria’s biosafety act was endorsed by the House and Senate in 2011. 136 of 1995 Ministerial Decree No 1648 of 1998 No stand-alone Biotech Policy Kenya Biosafety Act No.REVIEW New Biotechnology  Volume 30. Ministerial Decree No. which established the National Biosafety Committee (NBC). This paper reviews the extent to which the governments of South Africa. 136 (February 7. Zambia’s Biosafety Law advocates a strict liability for any harm caused by the genetically modified organism or its product and compensation to any person to whom the harm is caused. despite the fact that Africa’s needs and circumstances are so different from those of Europe [24]. favoring greater protection against perceived risks. which governs GMO commercialization [26]. 1995). South Africa was the first country in Africa to take this step in the GMO Act No. Burkina Faso. Number 2  January 2013 unofficial business. Egypt and Kenya already regulate the commercialization of GM products. Government commitment and political will Review A government commitment to GMOs is evidenced by the establishment of clear and transparent regulatory frameworks.

laboratories) and human capacity in molecular biology and GMO transformation techniques in the Uganda National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) [38]. stacked IR/HT maize IR cotton IR maize Category B: GM crops concluded or on-going in confined field trials (CFTs) South Africa IR cotton. The PUB program aims to promote public awareness and understanding of modern biotechnology and to stimulate dialogue on its current and potential future applications. Nigeria uses biosafety guidelines approved in 2001. Kenya published its GMO regulation in 2011. Support for GM technology The overt support from political leaders is crucial in advancing GM acceptance in Africa. These twin capabilities have enabled NARO to take a lead in the development and field-testing of many transgenic events involving different staple crops as shown in Table 3. Apart from the above political statements. regulatory and legal issues and support to close the gap between R&D and commercialization [30]. IR/HT cotton. HT wheat Burkina Faso IR cotton. Burkina Faso developed and adopted its GMO regulations and guidelines by government decree in June 2004 [28]. bacterial (Xanthomonas) Uganda resistant banana. educators and learners [39]. In early March 2011. ST = stress (salinity) tolerant. IR maize. HT maize. stacked IR/HT cotton. IR maize. . reduced poverty and ensured greater food security for their people’ [36]. a major research institute involved in GMO research [37]. the South African Agency of Science and Technology Advancement launched the program for Public Understanding of Biotechnology (PUB) in early 2003. to resolutely focus on an agriculture policy that works by adapting scientific research and new technologies to the needs of the rural populations’ [34]. has a state-of-the-art level 2 greenhouse and laboratories equipped with modern facilities to handle GMO development and evaluation. DT maize Kenya VIR sweet potato. KARI. antimicrobial sugarcane. Kenya approved its National Biotechnology Development Policy in 2006. funding. culminating in a new draft regulation in 2008. HT maize. bio-fortified cassava. South Africa’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Pieter Mulder said ‘If we are really serious about food security in Africa. emphasizing the government’s commitment to put in motion an appropriate and adequate legal regulatory framework and foster an environment that will attract investors. Kenya developed and approved provisional biosafety regulations in 1998 and 2006 for import. DT = drought tolerant. which addresses human resource development. contained trials and small scale CFTs. www. the government of Kenya continues to fund Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). IR = insect resistant. VIR cassava. VIR cucumber. education and participation. former President Daniel arap Moi wrote a letter in 2000 to then US President Bill Clinton requesting assistance in modern biotechnology [35]. In Kenya. For example. DT and ST wheat Black sigatoka (fungal) and nematode resistant banana. Nigeria and Uganda also have approved national biotechnology policies. DT maize. with funds obtained through public–private partnerships (PPPs). Kibaki said that ‘There is evidence that countries that have embraced modern agricultural technologies have improved economic performance. IR cotton. IR cotton. IR potato. VIR melon. governments of pioneer biotech countries have provided resources for the support of biotechnology R&D. .elsevier. Moi’s successor Mwai Kibaki also strongly supports modern biotechnology. Inaugurating a level II biosafety greenhouse in 2004.New Biotechnology  Volume 30. IR maize. In Uganda. In 2008. This echoes the sentiments of Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore who underscored in 2004 that ‘It’s imperative for Africa. bio-fortified sorghum HT = herbicide tolerant. bio-fortified sorghum Nigeria IR cowpea. VIR = virus resistant. HT cotton. whereas Uganda has guidelines for CFT (2006) and the containment of GMOs and microbes (2007) under existing legislation. Number 2  January 2013 REVIEW TABLE 3 Country Crops & Trait Category A: GM crops in commercial production South Africa Burkina Faso Egypt HT soybean. The country also took actions to accelerate the development of its biotechnology programs [31]. IR cowpea Egypt IR and ST cotton. bio-fortified banana. but with special focus on consumers. targeting all segments of society. the government in partnership with other donors since 2000 has spearheaded the development of biotechnology infrastructure (greenhouses. Kenya implemented a national biotechnology awareness strategy (BioAWARE-Kenya). HT soybean. The first adopters of biotech in the continent also lead the way in formalizing strategies to promote public awareness.com/locate/nbt 127 Review GM crops in commercial production and field trial stages in Africa . Egypt and Burkina Faso have no stand-alone biotechnology policies but use various government policies on biotech and biosafety issues [32]. For example. National biotechnology strategy/policy The first adopter biotech countries that recognized modern biotechnology as an engine for economic growth have strong national biotech strategies and policies. IR potatoes. a six-year (2008–2013) strategy meant to enhance public understanding and awareness through the dissemination of accurate. Public awareness for informed decision-making The cynicism surrounding GMOs in some western European countries has negatively influenced GM debates in Africa and reinforced the need for a transparent process of engaging the public in decision-making. VIR potato. South Africa approved its National Biotechnology Strategy in 2001 [29]. DT maize. emotional propaganda regarding GM will never get us anywhere’ [33]. With the enactment of the biosafety legislation (the Biosafety Act of 2009).

greenhouse and field experiments were completed in 1995. Egypt Inadequate public investment in biotech R&D Egypt’s efforts to address environmental responsibility for products of biotechnology began in 1992 with the collaborative work between the Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute (AGERI) and the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP). Uganda. of which two are herbicide tolerant. Number 2  January 2013 conducted a series of internships. Challenges Although first adopter nations have warmed up to GM technology. journalists. Uganda South Africa South Africa perhaps represents one of the most successful cases of agricultural biotechnology transfer in the world. the ABSP-AGERI project Leading African biotech countries have funded the establishment of centers of excellence in existing or new institutions to bring together multidisciplinary research teams in coordinated biotech R&D with the goal of commercialization but so far the investment has proven inadequate. During the period 1993–99. These include inadequate public investment in biotech R&D. The first adopter nations initially involved expertise outside the government to perform these functions. Burkina Faso enhanced awareness in 2010 by translating the biosafety law into the three languages (Moore´. This exercise was a significant capacity building for NARO. three maize events (two insect resistant. Capacity to handle approval processes Scientific and technical capacity to conduct risk assessment and evaluating scientific data of GMOs has been limited in Africa [20]. the civil society. a few hurdles remain.org). These institutions (national agricultural research institutes. Monitoring of genetically modified food products in South Africa. the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in collaboration with other partners launched a project to genetically engineer East African highland bananas (Musa spp. The NBC is the technical arm of UNCST and is responsible for scrutinizing and approving GM applications [46]. which explore avenues of bringing the benefits of biotechnology to the grassroots level (http://www. which hosts the secretariat of the National Biosafety Committee (NBC). one stacked event of cotton and one of maize) have since undergone CFTs.com/locate/nbt . mandatory GMO labeling policies and provisions for public participation in the approval process. two are insect resistant and two are stacked events. South Africa has commercialized several transgenic crops that include six cotton events. consultations and workshops to bolster public awareness.za/ETD-db/theses/ available/etd-10042011-094627/unrestricted/MarxGM. The GMO Act of 1997 is administered through the Directorate for Genetic Resources Management. the impediments from a conservative view of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. A bio-containment greenhouse facility was built and biosafety guidelines for laboratory. science councils and life sciences faculties of the major universities) have laboratories and greenhouses 128 www. Its regulatory framework is most well-developed in the continent. a decisionmaking organ that approves GM applications and coordinated by the National Council of Science and Technology (NCST) [43]. industrialists. culminating with the first CFT in 2007 [47]. The OFAB enables interactions between and among scientists. In 2005. Egypt. Nigeria and Ghana. one of cassava. Kenya regulated GMOs using the Science and Technology Act of 1980. one herbicide tolerant and one stacked event) as well as a single herbicide tolerant soybean event (G. policy makers. Kenya and Uganda have gained such experiences are herein following. the South African Committee for Genetic Experimentation (SAGENE) was established to advise the government. Since then CFTs have been conducted with IR maize. In 2000.7% of farmer-respondents in Kenya were aware of biotechnology [41]. This process moved Kenya along a learning curve to enable a more rapid pace in handling subsequent applications. Before the implementation of the GMO act (Act No. Tanzania. However. industry and the public on safety issues [42].uovs. University of the Free State. Jula and Gulmacema) most commonly spoken by cotton growers [19]. Marx. socio-economic concerns. which indicated that only 12. This act established the National Biosafety Committee (NBC). after years of handling GMO applications.REVIEW Review timely and balanced information to catalyze informed decisionmaking [40]. A partial impetus was the baseline survey done in 2002. 2010. GM activities in Uganda are regulated under existing legislation by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST). these nations have appreciable level of expertise for risk assessment and regulatory decision-making as evidenced by the number of GMOs approved for commercialization and/or CFTs (Table 3). in that five more transgenic events involving four crops (two of banana. Under this regulatory framework. IR cotton.elsevier. Faculty of Health Sciences. two regulatory bodies (the Advisory Committee and the Executive Council) and a battery of inspectors. now operational in Kenya. PhD Dissertation.ofabafrica. New Biotechnology  Volume 30. It provides for a Registrar who issues the approval. 15 of 1997) in December 1999. The inaugural commercialization of IR cotton is scheduled for 2014 [45]. and farmer groups and consumer associations.M. transgenic drought tolerant (DT) maize and bio-fortified sorghum. based at Michigan State University with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) [26]. One such platform is the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB). http://etd. which established the National Biosafety Authority (NBA).pdf (accessed 15 May 2012)). These national efforts are strengthened by platforms initiated by pro-biotech non-governmental organizations (NGOs).ac. The approval process lasted nearly two years. Department of Haematology.) resistant to black sigatoka and nematode. Details how South Africa. Egypt commercialized IR maize in 2008 and has field-tested numerous crops as shown in Table 3. Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) planted the first CFT of transgenic sweet potato that is resistant to sweet potato feathery mottle virus (SPFMV) after nearly three years of stringent approval process [44]. paving the way for three ministerial decrees that gave the momentum for biotech R&D and commercialization. Kenya Before the implementation of Biosafety Act of 2009.

more responsive national biotech strategies and greater public awareness all bode for a wider adoption of GM technology in Africa. For example. But it is not well elaborated in these acts how socio-economic impacts will be measured and analyzed. Soliciting public opinion in open dialogues can be expensive and complex.elsevier. first adopters have shown these qualities to move forward with strategies and implementation which support the development and commercialization of GM crops. Acknowledgement James A Okeno would like to acknowledge the support of the visiting scientist program at the Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products (BIGMAP). public funding to realize this goal has been limited. Egypt’s National Strategy for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology only approved about US$ 4 million for biotech R&D in 2003 [48]. Mandatory labeling of GMOs Currently there is controversy surrounding mandatory labeling of GMOs. does not require the labeling of GM products except when these products are substantially different in nutritional profiles from their conventional counterparts. Nigeria and Uganda. human health and socio-economic status of the indigenous and local communities. In that way. Mandatory labeling may be problematic in African countries where most consumers’ understanding of the nature of GM foods. Greater government support. Socio-economic concerns In line with the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety’s Article 26. Progress made by first adopter nations is likely to provide a roadmap for eventual wider adoption of GMOs in Africa. Although rather old. Iowa State University. data available for Kenya as of 1996. Although. www. Even at the international level there is disagreement on this issue. But it is unclear how other countries plan to involve the public in decisions about the course of action to take regarding GMOs. In May 2011. these investments by the pioneering countries for biotechnology do represent a strategic investment in biotechnology R&D. as regard to indigenous and local communities. The politics surrounding the way these provisions are interpreted and implemented has significant repercussions regarding research and commercialization of genetically engineered indigenous crops/landraces. whereas a primary argument against labeling is that there are no proven health risks with GM foods and labeling would seem to imply reason for concern. Number 2  January 2013 . 11 and 26 have lead some nations to put more emphasis on the potential risks of GMOs to biological diversity. The GMO acts of Kenya and Nigeria and the Biosafety Bill of Uganda have provisions for mandatory labeling. government resources have largely been spent in training scientists and strengthening the plant breeding and testing programs necessary to integrate the GM traits into popular locally adapted farmer-preferred varieties. South Africa invites public comments before the Executive Council can evaluate and decide on an application.5 million [30].com/locate/nbt 129 Review New Biotechnology  Volume 30.equipped with modern state-of-the-art facilities that can support large-scale commercialization of biotech products. This would need increased collaboration of African countries on biosafety and regulation of GMOs. In addition to limited consumer understanding. A central argument for labeling is that it enables consumer REVIEW choice in consuming or avoiding GMOs. but may be an obstacle to science-based decision-making. Paarlberg argued ‘groups opposed to the technology used the Cartagena Protocol as a vehicle to persuade governments in Africa to set in place European-style domestic regulatory systems regarding the approval of GMOs’ [50]. Recently. another challenge is the prominence of open markets and informal trade in many African economies. These countries have created an enabling regulatory framework that has acted as a catalyst for attracting a range of financial support from international organizations and private foundations for public–private partnerships (PPPs) in biotech R&D programs. Provisions for public participation in approval process The GMO acts of the first adopter nations have provisions intended to promote public awareness. and increase communities’ vulnerability to famine [51]. where no guidelines have been developed as yet regarding mandatory labeling of GMOs. Policy makers and regulators have not taken these into consideration when developing regulations on labeling. education and participation in decision-making. Conclusions Africa has been slow to embrace the GM technology. no comparable data are available for Burkina Faso. South Africa. which form the bulk of rural staples in Africa. Unfortunately. indicate a meager US$1. Experts also question the validity of this exercise in places where people do not have access to unbiased and comprehensive information on the nature and consequences of GMOs.18 million government spending on all forms of agricultural biotechnology research [49]. Cartagena protocol on biosafety Adhering to internationally binding agreements is useful. stronger legislative and regulatory frameworks. even if there is no scientific certainty to that effect. for determining socio-economic impacts arising from GMOs on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. the debate surrounding them and the alleged risks associated with their use remain nebulous and contentious [54]. the GMO acts of Kenya and Nigeria and the GMO draft Bill of Uganda emphasize the need. South Africa. These groups worry about the possible loss of native crop varieties that may reduce the flexibility and resilience of farming systems. and factored into biosafety decision-making process [52]. The Cartagena Protocol’s ‘precautionary’ principle of articles 10. The way in which this concern is addressed significantly effects opportunities for GM crop development in Africa. had total business expenditure on biotechnology in 2005/6 of US$ 53. by contrast. before application approval. greater capacity to handle the approval process. the international Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL) discontinued its work to define the terms and rules regarding the labeling of foods derived from biotechnology due to lack of consensus [53]. a leader in Africa in biotechnology research.

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