African scientist on Tuesday called for predictable political commitment towards supporting biotechnology research to boost uptake of the technology in the continent.

Margaret Karembu, Africa’s Director of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) said lack of political support is making it difficult for the continent’s scientists to form working partnerships with their counterparts from the developed world.

“We must fasten our research work to help fight food insecurity through the development of new crop varieties,” Karembu said in Nairobi during the launch of Africa’s commercialization of biotech crops 1996-2016 report.

She observed that negative trade barrier occasioned by the perception of the technology, the cost of regulation for the new varieties to be approved for the market and misinformation are further obstacles to the development of the technology.

Karembu is however optimistic that with the emerging of the South-South partnership in technology access, the continent may make a leap and join China, Brazil, Philippines, Canada and the U.S. in reaping the benefits from the technology.

During the 19 years period, 14 countries that are already growing the crops earned 52 billion U.S. dollars with 3.4 billion dollars being realized in 2015 alone.

Within the period, 185.1 million hectares of land globally are under biotech crops while the developing world accounts for 99.6 million hectares.

In Africa, only South Africa benefited with more than 300 million Africans who depend on maize as their staple food still denied a choice of adopting the crops by their governments.

Other countries growing biotech crops in Africa are Sudan, Burkina Faso and Egypt while Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Ghana, Swaziland, Uganda and Tanzania have trials ongoing on different crops ranging from banana, cassava, cowpea, sorghum, maize and cotton.

Cotton, soybean, maize and canola are the most biotech grown crops while in 2016 alone, sugar beet, papaya, potato, egg plant and squash also joined the list.

“Africa requires the technology now than ever given the current outbreak of Fall Army Worms, Maize Lethal Narcosis disease and climate change that is contributing significantly to the ravaging food insecurity in most parts of the continent,” Karembu added.

She said that biotech crops contributes to increased crop productivity, conserves biodiversity, reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 26.7 percent and is capable of alleviating poverty in the continent.

The scientist called for reduction of time frame in approving the new varieties by national performance trials to hasten research period. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/