All Africa

Africa needs a centralised body to help it overcome the lack of scientific capacity and expertise in regulating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), says a study.

The disarray of national policies, which are often poorly functioning or lacking in scientific expertise to implement them, means that a pan-African approach to GMO risk analysis and biosafety regulation is needed, according to the study to be published in next month’s issue of Food Policy.

A lack of consensus on how to regulate GMOs in Africa partly explains why the technology has yet to significantly improve food security there – despite its introduction almost two decades ago, the study says.

“There is a lack of agreement on how to develop, regulate and use GMOs in Africa, and that’s one of the problems affecting their development,” Ademola Adenle, the paper’s lead author and a research fellow at the UN University in Japan, tells SciDev.Net. “A centralised approach is needed, whereby the member countries have an agreement as to what is important, and what needs to be done before GMOs are released.”

The study examined the views of more than 300 stakeholders on the role of GMOs in agricultural development. These included research institutes, companies, government ministries and international bodies, in six African countries.

Adenle says the study is the largest and most comprehensive one on the issue yet conducted in Africa, revealing a diverse range of challenges in developing effective biosafety regulatory frameworks across the continent.

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