Dr. Florence Wambugu, the CEO of Africa Harvest will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath (UK) in July. She provides her perspective on the success of Kenya’s genetically modified sweet potato and the effect it has had on the agricultural biotechnology in Kenya and the African continent. READ MORE »
A director at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) observed that small-holder farmers’ incomes can increase if they adopt genetically-modified crops.
“In the coming years, growing populations, stagnating agricultural productivity and increasing climate change will make it more difficult for Africa to tackle poverty, hunger and nutrition,” Mark Rosegrant said. Rosegrant said in order to fight these challenges, many African countries, including Uganda, are increasingly assessing technologies like biotechnologies, which could help ease these problems in an environmentally-sustainable way.
“The future of agriculture in Uganda and the world lies in biotechnology. This is not about large-scale farmers, but also small-scale farmers,” Rosegrant said.
We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Rosegrant at the AAAS meeting in Chicago in February:
Speaking during the launch of the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) Tanzania Chapter, Director General of Tanzania’s Commission for Science and Technology, Dr. Hassan Mshinda, said “a lack of proper information on the opportunities offered by biotechnology has resulted in a slow adoption of various agro-technologies that can help the country feed its citizens.”
This is one more step toward bringing the debate on agricultural biotechnology closer to those who are most affected by biotechnology. Tanzania, like many African countries, faces a decreasing level of agricultural productivity caused by frequent droughts, poor crop varieties and livestock breeds, diseases, and a low technological base.
mem from sommerville on Daily Kos did a great job of illustrating the importance of biotechnology in 2009 World Food Prize Laureate Dr. Gebisa Ejeta’s work in developing drought- and weed-resistant sorghum to enhance the food supply in sub-Saharan Africa.
Some people will argue whether or not this means it is technically a “genetically modified organism” or GMO, or Genetic Engineering (GE). However, scientists in this field believe that it is genetic modification. But for this discussion, it doesn’t matter. The point is that the techniques of biotechnology are clearly used to solve these problems.
The post also gives me another opportunity to highlight the remarks of Dr. Daniel Mataruka on the adoption of agricultural biotechnology in Africa.
The 2009 World Food Prize will be awarded to Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, a native of Ethiopia and a Distinguished Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University, for his breakthrough work that illustrates “what can be achieved when cutting-edge technology and international cooperation in agriculture are used to uplift and empower the world’s most vulnerable people.” The announcement was made Thursday at a ceremony at the U.S. State Department.
According to the World Food Prize announcement:
With the local importance of sorghum in the human diet (made into breads, porridges, and beverages), and the vast potential of dryland agriculture in Sudan, Dr. Ejeta’s drought-tolerant hybrids brought dramatic gains in crop productivity and also catalyzed the initiation of a commercial sorghum seed industry in Sudan.
A scientist who grew up in a thatch hut in Ethiopia and later learned how to conquer a weed that plagues African agriculture is this year’s winner of the World Food Prize.
Gebisa Ejeta, a long-time agronomist at Purdue University, developed a variety of sorghum resistant to Striga, or witchweed, a parasitic plant that often destroys the vital food crop. Earlier, Ejeta came up with a high-yielding, drought-resistant version of sorghum.
Combining the resistance to drought and the weed allowed Ejeta’s sorghum to yield up to four times as much grain as the traditional varieties.
The prize will be given to Dr. Ejeta at a ceremony Oct. 15 at the Iowa Capitol.