Biotechnology

In the past half century, the number of people fed by a single farmer has grown exponentially. Despite this stunning advance, intractable health, nutrition and food security challenges remain, especially in developing countries. The world's population continues to grow even as available farmland shrinks, not to mention the effects of climate emergency. Preventable illnesses and malnutrition still claim the lives of many children in the Sub-Saharan Africa. For example, over 15 million people constantly face acute hunger in the horn of Africa. But it does not have to be like that. Most policy-makers, lawmakers, agriculturalists, health care professionals, scientists and economists are fully aware of availability of innovative agricultural technologies and tools exists that can be deployed to enable farmers to produce enough to feed the continent’s growing population. Chief among these tools is biotechnology, including gene editing. Leading, credible scientists have concluded that gene editing and genetic engineering have breathtaking possibilities for improving human nutrition and health. However, their deployment requires satisfactory science-based biosafety regulatory system. For example, under international law, modern agricultural biotechnology regulatory regime is more complex compared to others. The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the 2000 Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to The Convention on Biological Diversity mandate states parties to enact biosafety laws and regulations to govern biotechnology research, development and trade. Despite the strict regulatory regime or risk assessment that products of biotechnology undergo before approval, opinion is still divided about their safety and benefits. At issue is the alleged are risks that any genetically modified plant may pose to the environment and human health. However, the greater risk is that without a scientific basis low understanding of biotechnology will continue to deny poor countries access to the benefits of biotechnology. To help improve public understanding of the science behind genetically modified foods, the input from the scientific community is vital. The Africa Science Media Center seeks to bridge the information and knowledge gaps working collaboratively with experts and the media to address misinformation stifling application of modern biotechnology in Africa.

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