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Africa's future -- can biosciences help?

October 15, 2015

Des Moines, Iowa: The recently adopted SDG2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030. This presents Africa in particular with a major challenge since one person in four still goes hungry. Furthermore, most of the burden falls on African smallholder farmers as they struggle to protect their crops from diseases, pests, drought and climate change; increase yields; and provide food for rapidly rising populations.

Through a series of projects, related to the Biosciences for Africa (B4FA) program has been studying for the last 4 years how recent advances in plant sciences could offer sustainable and cost-effective solutions together with the possible barriers to their introduction. The results are now being launched at the World Food Prize 2015 in a key publication entitled 'Analyses: Africa's future ... can biosciences contribute?' funded by the John Templeton Foundation and two Cambridge, UK-based trusts, independent philanthropic organizations.

"'Analyses' provides an independent overview by leading authorities of the best practices and policies for implementing genetic technologies, both GM and non-GM, in the local crops grown by African smallholder farmers. It also includes unique first-hand accounts of smallholder farmers' experiences. We believe 'Analyses' will become an invaluable tool for SDG2 implementation since it contains recommendations for policy makers and their advisers, educationalists, members of non-governmental organisations and the media, as well as those who take an interest in smallholder agriculture," says Patrick Mitton, project co-leader.
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Questions outlined in Analyses include: what are the scientifically established nutritional, social, environmental and regulatory consequences of crops generated by genetic modification together with other modern genetic techniques, particularly for small landholders; can the use of these crops have economic impacts in less-developed countries; and what are the barriers to acceptance and use of these crops?

The crops represented in the book are those commonly grown by smallholder farmers as staple foods, including maize, cassava, cooking banana, sorghum and rice. The primary focus is Sub-Saharan Africa, but some essays offer experience from around the world, including China, Honduras, India and the Philippines. All sections of the supply chain are represented, from plant genetics, regulatory status, seed supply and agronomy extension services, through to grower and societal perceptions.

Copies of Analyses can be downloaded at http://www.b4fa.org

Richard Hayhurst Associates

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