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GM crops: A continent divided

This feature article examines some of the key debates around the role of genetically modified (GM) technology in Africa.

The technology promises much to malnourished populations on a continent that climate change threatens to make even more inhospitable to crops. But anti-GM campaigners maintain that Africa's hunger crisis will not be solved by biotechnology.

US agri-biotech corporations such as Monsanto who lobby African governments to buy into such technology also have a large financial stake in rolling out GM over such a large continent. The anti-GM lobby, traditionally made up of environment charities such as Greenpeace, are now seeing aid charities such as Oxfam join its ranks.

The real stand-off, however, is between the largely pro-GM United States and a cautious Europe. The US Agency for International Development (USAID), which is pro-GM, has provided millions of dollars to support biosafety policymaking and research in the developing world.

European countries meanwhile do not rule out introducing GM technology to Africa but want GM products labelled and traceable to their source. The deciding factor may be how effective GM is in improving nutrition — and that remains under debate.

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