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Plant genetic engineering in Africa

Currently, genetically modified crops are only cultivated in three African countries on a commercial basis but in research and development plant biotechnology is already used more and more

Scientists work on crops that are better adapted to local growing conditions or that are more nutritious. At the same time, many African governments increase their efforts to regulate genetically modified crops in their countries.

Plant breeding adapted to local needs

While genetically modified crops are only cultivated commercially in very few countries in Africa, various research and development activities regarding GM crops are going on in a number of countries. In fact, many plants are already grown in trials (see table below). This regional research work targets crops and traits that are important for food security in Africa, like drought-resistant maize or biofortified cassava. This is an important difference to the commercialised GM crops, which were developed by western companies mainly for the US market.

Many of the research projects on GM crops are run by international consortia. Governments and foundations from industrialised countries fund the projects, private seed companies provide the basic technology royalty-free, and regional organisations are responsible for the overall coordination. The actual research and development is being done by western and regional universities and research institutes as well as by international agricultural research centres. Examples for such collaborations are the “Water Efficient Maize for Africa” (WEMA) or the “Africa Biofortified Sorghum” (ABS) projects.