Biotech crops modify the face of agriculture - CNBC Africa

Biotech crops modify the face of agriculture

Technology

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Genetically modified wheat. PHOTO: Getty Images

“If we look at the history of biotechnology in many other nations right now, it’s very clear that the biotechnology has made major contributions to the increase of yields, and also the increase of margins that farmers are able to make for the work that they do. But it’s had a lot of ancillary benefits as well, which are benefits that are very important to Africa,” CSIRO group executive Maurice Moloney told CNBC Africa.

“In addition, it’s been demonstrated in many countries that the use of biotechnology-based crops, improves soil quality substantially, and this is a very important part of increasing the overall yields that an African farmer may be able to achieve.”

Africa has been regarded as the next frontier market in agriculture and development, but the continent is however failing to feed all of its people.

Biotechnology can however increase food security in the continent. Biotechnology crops, also known as bio crops or genetically modified crops, are plants with modified DNA from genetic engineering.

The commercial use of biotech crops has increased every year from 1996 to 2013, with 12 years of double-digit growth rates, but this progress has also been accompanied by a concern that technology increases the dependency on poor farmers on multi-national companies.

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“The introduction of biotechnology in South Africa has resulted very quickly in the more than doubling of maize for example, so it clearly can have a dramatic effect in plant agriculture in Africa,” Moloney explained.

Farmers in many countries around the world have managed to see increases in their margins by anything from 30 to 50 per cent.

Farmers in North America have equally been enjoying the fruits of strong economic performance from their produce, and despite the occasional difficult weather conditions farmers have managed to improve their output.

“There are always costs associated with this, [and] I think the number one difficulty is the early adopters of this technologies very often do well, and it’s the late adopters obviously lose out. The later adopters, because they don’t make the margins as early, are very often vulnerable to the acquisition of their farms,” Moloney added.

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