The appropriateness of GM crops for Sub-Saharan Africa: an assessment of current evidence (with special reference to cassava in Nigeria)
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It is broadly accepted that agricultural growth is essential for Sub-Saharan Africa‘s development, in support of economic growth and a structural transformation of the economy towards industrialization, food security and poverty reduction. Many believe that genetically modified crops have the potential to produce higher yields in many of Sub-Saharan Africa‘s unfavourable climatic conditions and can therefore help in providing food security to the region. While some countries in Sub-Saharan African countries struggle to find a solution for food security issues, others could benefit from GM crops as cash and export crops. The increasing interest of biofuels adds to the potential of GM crops in creating food surpluses which can be used for exports and bioethanol production. Africa is faced with a number of intersecting challenges which are threatening its already frail food production systems: Increasing population growth is adding demand on food supply systems while climate change is likely to increase the occurrence of drought, extreme weather events and sea level rise which will reduce the availability of water, crop land and other vital ecosystem services. The public debate about genetically modified foods is often ethically charged and based on moral principles. This paper will attempt to move away from ethical considerations towards an assessment of the evidence currently available. In order to evaluate the appropriateness of GM crops for Sub-Saharan Africa, the paper identifies criteria which are essential in assessing the potentials and barriers to GM uptake. These criteria were applied to the South African experience in order to consider lessons learned and whether South Africa can serve as a model for the rest of the region.