AFRICA - Unduly restrictive regulations and trade barriers that limit the use of GMOs in many countries will cost developing nations as much as US$1.5 trillion by 2050 if they are not stopped, according to a new report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).
According to the report activist campaigns that misrepresent scientific evidence have continued to drive the agenda, leading to these countries to adopt strong anti-GM regulations and trade barriers that will eventually cost developing countries, including Africa.
This situation persists, despite biotechnology innovations including genetically modified organisms (GMOs) having been proven to be essential to improving agricultural productivity around the world, and thus play a critical role in bolstering developing economies.
“In agriculture, as in every other sector of the economy, technology innovation is the seed corn of the productivity growth that is essential for increasing people’s wages and improving their quality of life,” said Robert D. Atkinson, ITIF’s president and the report’s co-author.
“For farmers in developing nations, in particular, the most cost-effective way to boost productivity is to use genetically improved seeds that yield bigger crops of safe, affordable food.”
In the report, “Suppressing Growth: How GMO Opposition Hurts Developing Nations,” ITIF explains that because farmers in developing nations often cannot afford other methods for improving agricultural productivity, such as technologically advanced farm equipment and expensive pesticides, seeds improved through biotechnology to resist insect pests or tolerate herbicides for improved weed control are the most affordable way to produce more abundant and higher quality crops.
ITIF’s analysis documents how anti-GMO campaigns, based primarily in Europe, have created significant obstacles to the development and adoption of genetically modified crops, primarily through unduly restrictive regulations.
These policies disproportionately hurt those nations with the most to gain from more productive agriculture, particularly the developing nations of sub-Saharan Africa.
ITIF estimates that the current restrictive climate for agricultural biotech innovations could cost low- and lower-middle-income nations up to $1.5 trillion in foregone economic benefits through 2050.
“Despite the strongly positive track record of biotech-derived crops for farmers, consumers, and the environment, there is still a significant opportunity to continue expanding their use to address the ever-increasing demand for food, animal feed, and industrial fiber,” said L. Val Giddings, ITIF senior fellow and report co-author.
“It is critical that restrictive regimes blocking GMOs be rolled back as rapidly as possible, so farmers everywhere can take advantage of the productivity-enhancing benefits of biotech innovation.”
Many African nations, including Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda have strong GM regulatory frameworks and regulators, but have failed to adopt GM seed due to pressure from the campaigners and lack of political will from the Governments.
Kenya, a leader in the development of GM varieties in the region, recently failed to announce the expected opening of field trials of GM maize, with the announcement meeting getting scuttled at the last minute.