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Africa needs a Green Revolution based on public investment in agricultural science and technology, including local research into genetically engineered crops, says Robert Paarlberg, in the Harvard International Review.

Tackling rising food prices globally will make little long-term difference to Africa's food and nutrition problems, because 80 per cent of its poor and hungry live in rural areas and rely on locally produced food, he says.

Africa's agricultural production is 19 per cent below where it was in 1970.

Farmers need all the "updates from science" — drought-resistant maize varieties and access to irrigation, fertilizers and veterinary medicine — to increase Africa's food production.

But African governments follow Europe's precautionary approach to developing GMO technology, because they depend on Europe for aid, Paarlberg argues. Europe's scientific authorities have found no evidence documenting environmental or health risks.

Paarlberg proposes that African scientists — working within African institutes — should develop genetically engineered crops, tailored to the needs of the continent's small farmers.  

Historically, African governments rely on donors to pay for agricultural modernisation.

"The problem is — and here we have to blame the US as much as Europe — the donor governments have withdrawn their support for agricultural science in the last 25 years," Paarlberg says.

Link to full article/paper in Harvard International Review

In a separate SDN opinion, William Dar argues that food prices will hit the rural poor but the effects can be offset by a variety of scientific methods for increasing productivity and raising yields