The need to feed growing populations in developing countries, especially countries in Africa, must be met by increasing the yields of crops. Also, climate-change related problem such as drought continue to worsen hunger problem and humanitarian crisis in the continent. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could greatly help with these issues, yet resistance persists in Europe and Africa both.
For several years, I have been thinking about what should be done to address the negative sentiment about GMOs. As an African scientist who has the vast knowledge of biotechnology and understands the potential of the new technology, I took the task upon myself to gather evidence with experts around the world and publish a book and a Correspondence on how to address GMO regulation problems at the international level.
While this was a difficult task, I am proud to be the first African scholar to mobilize experts from around the world to review or abandon current regulatory framework for GMOs. It is uncommon but I have taken this bold step and made an initial attempt to challenge the current status quo of GMO regulation.
Europe is overly cautious about the use of GMOs. But Europeans are well fed, and are not experiencing the type of hunger and malnutrition that affects people in other parts of the world. Europeans must stop playing fear-based politics on technologies that can benefit millions of people dying from micronutrient deficiency and hunger in Africa.
But the problem exists here in Africa, too. Some years ago I travelled to several countries across different regions in Africa to discuss the benefits of GMOs with policymakers. These talks spurred the largest study in the history of GM agriculture in Africa, but the debating continues, with policymakers asking for more evidence to prove GMOs are safe. In my own country, Nigeria, I was threatened in the local news for promoting the use of GMOs. Media reported that eating food made from GMOs is bad for your health and could cause cancer.
We need to stop media bias towards the use of GMOs, and educate the individuals and organizations that are influencing policies against GMOs. There is overwhelming evidence that GMOs are safe for human consumption. If the world is to achieve the United Nations sustainable-development goals, GMOs will need to play a part.