“Most of the African governments have started to adopt genetically modified crops, it’s just that the pace has been slow when we compare to what has been happening in South Africa, which is now enjoying 15 years of GM crop adoption. There has been research that has been on-going at the laboratory level as well as the trials. Only four countries to date have adopted GM crops: South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt and Sudan,” Africabio CEO Nompumelelo Obokoh told CNBC Africa on Monday.
“Most of the other African countries are still putting in place their regulatory frameworks because when you look at this technology, you have to have in place systems that will ensure that this technology is harnessed or adopted in a safe and responsible manner.”
According to World Bank reports, the world will need to significantly increase food production by 2050 in order to feed a projected world population of over 9 billion people. The world’s agriculture systems will therefore have to significantly change in order to cater to the larger population.
According to Obokoh, countries such as Ghana and Nigeria, who are already in the process of passing biosafety laws and GM food technology bills, are on the right track in creating alternative food security solutions.
Growing GM foods can eliminate the use of chemical pesticides, as they are genetically engineered to resist certain bacteria and diseases, as well as have a stronger tolerance to extreme weather such as coldness or drought.
Critics against GM foods have raised concerns over the risks on the environment and human health risks, such as a development of new allergies and other harmful ailments due to the foreign genes in plants that the human body is not used to.
“In South Africa, we have been consuming foods derived from GM crops. We have GM maize, GM soy beans, we also have GM cotton, so these are crops that already have been commercialised in South Africa. If you look at countries like America, they have for the past 16 years adopted this technology and those countries are doing very well,” Obokoh explained.
“More than 64 million hectares of the land is already dedicated to GM crop cultivation in America, whereas here in South Africa we have around 2.3 million hectares , so it’s really a small margin compared to some of these developed worlds.”
In 2003, a number of African heads of state countries signed the 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, where they agreed to dedicate 10 per cent of their national budget to agriculture as a solution to the food security problem. So far only a few countries have stuck to the agreement.
“When you look at agriculture just in general, not much has been put into it by our governments. It’s up to our governments to say these are the technologies that are here to stay; they’re already proved themselves over a period of years,” said Obokoh.