Africa at Crossroads

This was a pleasant surprise in my news feed. Israel Deladem Agorsor, in the department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana just published a column on GE crops and the future of African Agriculture. The debates on Genetically modified organisms at crossroads: Which way for Africa? Africa is busy trying to catch up to the developed world in order to feed itself on into the future, and genetic engineering is a contentious topic over there. Perhaps nowhere else in the world is it as touchy of an issue, for a variety of reasons that Agorsor details. Is Africa embracing biotechnology an inevitability, welcome or not? Will it help with adaptations to climate change?
Here is a good excerpt:

Now, here we are at the crossroads with what looks like a monkey business, confronted with a choice as to whether to go east or west, as to whether to embrace or ignore plant genetic engineering and GMOs.
If you ask me what we should do, I may not be able to tell you. But what I can tell you for a fact is that in the midst of the raging debates on the safety or otherwise of genetically modified organisms, top scientists across many of the world’s developed countries are virtually locked up in sophisticated laboratories “doing their own thing” as though they are being motivated by some Mo Ibrahim Prize! Are you aware the Mo Ibrahim Prize is the most rewarding prize money our world has known in living memory, more rewarding than even the world-famous Nobel Prizes which crown the years of efforts of outstanding scholars who make “a significant breakthrough” in their areas of research?
So the developed world research scientists are vigorously pursuing research in plant molecular biology. They are genetically engineering some staple crops, giving rise to genetically modified foods with “desirable traits”.
But are these research scientists not aware of the raging controversies? Why are they so bent on sowing “the seeds of self-destruction”? Or are they simply finding answers to the “heavy questions” often posed by the opponents of genetic engineering?

Read the rest here.
I would like to take this moment to say that not all ag scientists are ‘locked up’ in their ivory-tower labs and field research stations, in fact, a lot of them would like to reach out and help in any way they can. Reaching out and finding answers to heavy questions is what this blog is about!

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Written by Karl Haro von Mogel

Karl Haro von Mogel serves as BFI’s Director of Science and Media and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. He has a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison with a minor in Life Sciences Communication. He is a Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Riverside and works on Citrus genetics.

2 comments

  1. Hmmm…the image over there says GM foods. Are there really GMO artichokes already? I wasn’t aware of that….
    You should invite the author over here to talk.
    I don’t care if someone says “I will not eat GMO food” and wants to live that way. But I just think it’s so unfair for some of those same folks to try to withhold the technology from others. And some of them want to ban anything they call “biotechnology” which is ridiculous. It would ban the techniques — or even learning the techniques — that might make many improvements in plants that are short of the cross-species barrier that they want to prevent.
    Seems to me that it is no accident that India and China are now at a technology and development inflection point that followed on from the Green Revolution (which anti-tech activists claim was a huge disaster).

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