African Union crafts guidelines for GM crops, activists raise alarm



* New push for harmonisation of GMO regulations in Africa

* Only seven African countries have commercial GM output

* Backers of GM crops says they will improve food security

* Critics raise safety concerns, say poor farmers will suffer

By Wendell Roelf

CAPE TOWN, Aug 31 (Reuters) - The African Union is developing guidelines for the use of genetically modified (GM) crops across the continent, officials said, amid criticism from campaigners that some policies favour big business and lack adequate public input.

Despite a concerted push by donor-funded schemes to expand the use of such crops in Africa, they have not been widely adopted by the millions of small-scale farmers that make up the backbone of the agricultural sector.

Only seven countries - South Africa, Sudan, eSwatini, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria and Kenya - have approved the commercial production of GM crops, mainly insect-resistant cotton, the African Union (AU) wrote in a draft report on its proposed guidelines.

"While very sensitive, GMs are already in Africa, and some countries ... are using it at various stages," said Peace Mutuwa of the AU's agriculture and rural development unit.

She said the guidelines were to protect consumers and countries from unwitting consumption of GM products.

"The food, feed and environmental safety controversy surrounding genetic engineering technology in particular makes continental guidelines extremely significant," said the draft AU report seen by Reuters.

Proponents of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) hope the guidelines will improve crop yields and food security, as farmers battle the effects of climate change. Without them, they say, Africa could struggle to feed a mushrooming population expected to nearly double to 2.5 billion by 2050.

However some anti-GMO activists dispute the view that widespread hunger can be eliminated with modified crops, which they say often trap poor farmers into a debt cycle of buying unaffordable seeds and agro-chemicals.

"This is bad for African farmers. It really is just about the corporate infiltration of African agriculture and tapping the massive untapped market," said Frances Davies of the Zambian Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity.

The AU did not provide a timeline for when the guidelines would be published, or details about the process. Some activists said, though, that the plans were being finalised and could be sent to a October AU summit for possible adoption.

A separate set of guidelines aims to promote the harmonisation of seed regulations across the continent, including on quality and intellectual property.
Editing by Tim Cocks

Disclaimer: The XM Group entities provide execution-only service and access to our Online Trading Facility, permitting a person to view and/or use the content available on or via the website, is not intended to change or expand on this, nor does it change or expand on this. Such access and use are always subject to: (i) Terms and Conditions; (ii) Risk Warnings; and (iii) Full Disclaimer. Such content is therefore provided as no more than general information. Particularly, please be aware that the contents of our Online Trading Facility are neither a solicitation, nor an offer to enter any transactions on the financial markets. Trading on any financial market involves a significant level of risk to your capital.

All material published on our Online Trading Facility is intended for educational/informational purposes only, and does not contain – nor should it be considered as containing – financial, investment tax or trading advice and recommendations; or a record of our trading prices; or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instruments; or unsolicited financial promotions to you.

Any third-party content, as well as content prepared by XM, such as: opinions, news, research, analyses, prices and other information or links to third-party sites contained on this website are provided on an “as-is” basis, as general market commentary, and do not constitute investment advice. To the extent that any content is construed as investment research, you must note and accept that the content was not intended to and has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such, it would be considered as marketing communication under the relevant laws and regulations. Please ensure that you have read and understood our Notification on Non-Independent Investment. Research and Risk Warning concerning the foregoing information, which can be accessed here.

We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our website. Read more or change your cookie settings.

Risk Warning: Your capital is at risk. Leveraged products may not be suitable for everyone. Please consider our Risk Disclosure.