The low adoption of modern biotechnology in Sub-Saharan Africa has been attributed to the inadequate capacity of scientific systems in most African countries to deliver on their primary and related mandates.
The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) Cowpea Project Manager, Dr Issoufou Kollo, who made this observation in a keynote address to legal practitioners and officers during a two-day workshop on biotechnology and biosafety recently held in Karu, Abuja, said, “In many countries, even the capacities to conduct basic agricultural research had regressed.”
The situation, according to Dr Kollo has exposed the unpreparedness of African scientists to address unsavoury propaganda against their work in modern biotechnology, lamenting the inability of many scientists to handle the.
While urging African scientists to educate themselves on molecular biology, biotechnology and to deepen their knowledge on the latest development in the field, Dr Kollo said the African scientist must learn to engage debates that threaten their works with a view to correcting the misconceptions.
“Engage yourselves in the debate to defend your profession learn how to communicate effectively to the public with less scientific jargon,” he said.
“We need to understand that scientists will never be left alone in their lab and research center. They must explain to the public and the decision makers what they are doing. They are accountable to the society,” Dr Kollo added.
The plant pathologist faulted the Cartagena Protocol saying it does not promote the adoption of biotechnology.
“The protocol is based on fear and assumptions that genetically modified organisms (GMO) are dangerous products. It focuses on biodiversity conservation and transboundary movements without telling how GMOs can endangered the survival of species,” he said.
Dr Kollo said that this confusion results in the development of biosafety legislation and regulations that are more of a hindrance to biotechnological research, development and use while contributing to spreading fear among the public.
He said that Africa has a lot to gain from genetically modified crops in addressing issues of food insecurity.
Referring to progress made in other countries such as the United States of America, Dr Kollo said that GM crops are the fastest adopted technology since the release of hybrids and wondered why Africa, with the lowest food per capita production in the World and chronic hunger and malnutrition affecting more than 1/3 of the population, is dragging its feet on the technology.
“Agricultural land on the continent is shrinking because of rapid urbanization and high populations raising the need to produce more food per unit area of land than ever,’ Dr Kollo said.
He advocated for agricultural intensification with greater use of agricultural science, technology & Innovation saying that African governments and institutions have recognized the continent’s need to access new and better agricultural technologies, including biotechnology but unfortunately some of these technologies are not readily available because of cost and intellectual property management.
AATF, according to him, is facilitating technology access and the commercialization of these technologies across the continent to build on efforts towards food and nutrition security.