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African nations should support proposed regional policy guidelines on GM technology, says an editorial in Nature.

Under the new proposal from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a trade bloc of 19 African nations, the bloc would carry out science-based risk assessments on growing commercial GM crops in any of the bloc's countries.

If COMESA finds the crop safe for the environment and for human consumption, the crop could then be grown in all COMESA countries, although individual countries would retain the right to withhold, says the editorial.

Currently, individual countries lack a combination of money, scientific expertise and regulatory framework to do such risk assessments on their own — which may explain the lack of commercially grown GM crops in Africa.

The proposals will help more African nations choose agricultural biotechnology and profit from its potential to increase food security, says the editorial.

African countries should avoid ideological arguments and stick to evidence-based policy-making on GM crops. Many public-private partnerships in Africa, where companies donate their technologies for free, disprove the anti-GM lobby's arguments that poor African farmers are being exploited by the big multinationals, argues the editorial.

Link to full article in Nature