April 2, 2018 | Food security

Genetically modified crops are quickly being acknowledged in Africa as evidenced by Mozambique’s initiative to set up field tests. Mozambique’s actions are a reflection of an accelerated adoption of biotechnology in Africa. This year’s world food day theme focused on investments in food security. Indubitably, this was an appropriate theme as the African continent is currently being plagued by chronic food insecurity. Food scarcity in Africa is attributable to climatic changes such as reduced rainfall. This problem has however been compounded by damaging pests such as the armyworm. Major maize producers in Africa have experienced a significant decline in their output owing to the inability of indigenous maize species to resist the armyworm. Despite the proliferation of food scarcity, several African countries have been hesitant to explore the viability of genetically modified crops.

Why has Africa always hesitated to adopt genetically modified crops?

The hesitation to adopt genetically modified crops is based on a plethora of reasons. First, biotechnology is relatively new in Africa as evidenced by countries beginning with field tests to assess the viability of genetically modified plants.  Opponents of genetically modified crops argue that this biotechnology will ultimately have harmful effects. In the short run, however, genetically modified businesses empower agricultural multinationals at the cost of Africa’s populace. Farmers, in particular, are at risk of losing their means of sustenance due to intensive competition from multinationals. Other concerns that have hindered the adoption of genetically modified crops in Africa are the threat to biodiversity and exposure to health hazards. Biotechnological scientists, however, use scientific tests to repudiate these claims and position genetically modified crops as the key to mitigating the African hunger menace.

Are genetically modified crops the key to ending food insecurity in Africa?

Mozambique and other African countries have been plagued by famine resulting in chronic food insecurity. Maize is one of the staple crops that have experienced a sharp decline due to reduced rainfall and the advent of the armyworm. To this end, genetically modified crops are positioned as the key to alleviate food insecurity. In lieu of the above, Mozambique has joined a number of African countries in setting up field tests for genetically modified crops. In February this year, Mozambique thus planted its first trial of genetically modified corn.

The success of these field tests is bound to have a wealth of positive ramifications for Mozambique and other African countries. First, maize scarcity not only affects the maize industry but has also negatively affected the poultry industry since maize is used for poultry feeds production. Genetically modified maize would therefore not only mitigate food insecurity but also enhance the productivity of related sectors. This biotechnology would also have economic cost savings as money is used to treat pests such as the armyworm. Notably, this would also reduce the utilization of chemical pesticides that perpetuate climatic problems such as contamination of water.

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