Africa’s locust outbreak: Proof we need GMOs, pesticides and every other tool in the toolbox to combat crop-destroying insects

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locusts
Credit: Face of Malawi

A perfect storm of conditions led to the locust attack currently tearing through East Africa and Pakistan, where countries are deploying pesticides, military personnel and even ducks.

But the ongoing outbreak is only the latest example of the devastation that crop pests can cause – there are tens of thousands more that farmers have to contend with, from diseases and fungi to weeds and insects.

And with such a variety of threats to harvests and yields, there is no silver bullet to protect against losses and damage. Rather, an integrated approach is needed that incorporates all available tools in the toolbox ….

Related article:  Petition urges India's Supreme Court to halt illegal GMO crop cultivation, citing 'irreversible' genetic contamination

Using either conventional breeding or genetic modification, scientists can develop seeds that produce pest-resistant crops, for example.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has also developed maize varieties resistant to the stem borer insect for use in West and Central Africa.

And [in 2019], the Nigerian Biosafety Management Agency approved the commercial release of genetically modified cowpea to farmers – a variety resistant to the maruca pod borer, a type of insect.

Better seeds and crop protection products are vital – but we need to do still more.

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