The African Union is developing guidelines for the use of genetically modified (GM) crops across the continent, officials said, amid criticism from campaigners that some policies favour big business and lack adequate public input.
Despite a concerted push by donor-funded schemes to expand the use of such crops in Africa, they have not been widely adopted by the millions of small-scale farmers that make up the backbone of the agricultural sector.
Proponents of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) hope the guidelines will improve crop yields and food security, as farmers battle the effects of climate change. Without them, they say, Africa could struggle to feed a mushrooming population expected to nearly double to 2.5 billion by 2050.
However some anti-GMO activists dispute the view that widespread hunger can be eliminated with modified crops, which they say often trap poor farmers into a debt cycle of buying unaffordable seeds and agro-chemicals.
“This is bad for African farmers. It really is just about the corporate infiltration of African agriculture and tapping the massive untapped market,” said Frances Davies of the Zambian Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity.