Plant Biotechnology

B iotech crops were first commercially cultivated in 1996 and first cultivated in Africa (South Africa) in 1998. These crops have been improved to resist certain insects pests and diseases; tolerate herbicide applications, which allows for the adoption of no-till practices; mitigate climate change conditions such as drought as well as use resources such as water and nitrogen more efficiently; and also have consumer benefits, such as non-browning varieties and health improvements, such as lowered mycotoxins and acrylamides or biofortification.

Today, globally more than 17 million farmers in 24 countries grow biotech crops on over 189.9 million hectares, of which the majority are in fact in developing countries. While South Africa and Sudan are the only two African countries currently growing biotech crops, new biotech products (cotton) have recently been approved for cultivation in Kenya and Nigeria, with many more countries both heavily involved in later stages of plant biotech research and focused on developing regulatory systems that facilitate access to these technologies. Active research across the continent includes various technologies in banana, cassava, cotton, cowpea, potatoes, rice, sorghum, sweet potatoes, and soybean.