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AFRICA African leader sees progress
in biotech 20-June-2012 Council for Biotechnology
Research is underway to develop
biotech versions of traditional African crops even as major
crops such as corn are being adopted on the continent, according
to the executive director of AfricaBio, a stakeholders association.
Nutrient enhancement and desirable traits such as drought
resistance are being developed, along with resistance to
insect pests and weed killers, Dr. Nompumelelo Obokoh told
a session at the BIO International Convention here Monday.
“Improvement projects are underway in at least seven countries,”
Dr. Obokoh said. Crops under development include cassava,
sweet potato, bananas, cowpeas, rice and sorghum, she said.
Biotech crops familiar in the west, such as corn, have
already been deployed in some countries in Africa, she said.
Insect-resistant corn makes up 72 percent of the corn crop
on commercial farms in South Africa and is growing in popularity
among smallholders as well, she said.
“Cereal yields in Africa are less than half the yield in
the developed world,” Dr. Obokoh said. “Biotech will deliver
more productivity on less land with less use of resources.”
Biotech is also helping smallholders move from a subsistence
model of farming, in which they barely eke out a living,
to a business model, in which they have surplus product
to sell in the market, she said.
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