G8 must encourage biotech cooperation for Africa
G8 leaders must encourage cooperation in the use of biotechnology to address Africa's food shortages, writes Calestous Juma in The Japan Times.
Biotechnology has the capacity to address challenges such as drought, but overemphasis on biosafety may hinder progress.
"By failing to adopt biotechnology, Africa puts its poor populations at greater risk of starvation," warns Juma.
At the G8 summit to be held in Hokkaido, Japan, next week (7–9 July), leaders should convince Africa and its partners to formulate new models of cooperation that will enable partnerships between government, industry and academia.
Critics have voiced fears that intellectual property rights would hinder countries from obtaining technologies to meet basic needs. But Juma highlights the Water Efficient Maize for Africa initiative, funded by the Gates Foundation, where new drought-tolerant techniques have been licensed free of charge to the African Agricultural Technology Foundation.
Juma says that when it comes to biosafety, it is important to exercise balance. "Safety measures co-evolve with the development of the technology. We should not blindly demand proof of safety as a prerequisite for using new technology."