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Africa must ignore GM 'bullying' from both sides

African governments and African leaders must decide for themselves what risks to take in the use of biotechnology, and must weigh those risks against potential benefits.

David Fig doubts the ability of the African Union's High Level Panel on Modern Biotechnology to guide those decisions (see Is Africa being bullied into growing GM crops?). I have more faith than Fig, and I refer the reader to the panel's Freedom to Innovate report.

Fig is wrong when he writes, "GM technology forces Africa into high-input, chemical-dependent agriculture which impacts on biodiversity and creates debt burdens for small farmers." This is only true if policies are wrongheaded.

Indeed, biotechnology is probably the best weapon in improving productivity of low-input, non chemical-dependent agriculture. It has great potential to protect biodiversity. If used to increase the productivity and profitability of small farms, it may help reduce or eliminate their debt.

Those nations that decide to utilise biotechnology will need to attract companies with technological know-how. An anti-corporate bias is not useful here. I have talked to several industrial leaders in this field who are humanitarians, more concerned with the welfare of Africans than with the profits to be gained from African markets.

Africa should not be bullied by anyone, including Luddite environmentalists who militate against GM crops.