Position Statements on Biotechnology
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)
A policy research report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) states "modern medical and agricultural biotechnology can contribute much to increased food security and better health in African countries by speeding the agricultural productivity and epidemiological transitions in these countries". The report "Harnessing Technologies for Sustainable Development" further says,
modern technologies "bring tremendous hope to those who live in fragile environments, depend on marginal lands, are exposed to health hazards and natural disasters, and have little coping capacity and almost no assets to fall back on in a crisis".
Medical biotechnology and genetics are expanding opportunities for developing new drugs, improving the efficacy of existing drugs and treatments, and creating new ways of delivering the medicines. These technologies are improving the prospects for controlling and eradicating infectious diseases in the coming century.
On the other hand, recent advances in agricultural biotechnology like crop varieties with higher yields, greater resistance to pests and diseases, and better nutritional, health, and environmental attributes are important to Africa. This new 'green revolution' has the distinctive promise for Africa through its capability to "provide a better way to extend productive potential to poor farm communities, pre-packaged in genetically engineered seeds rather than delivered haphazardly in many separate purchased inputs".
However, the report also cautions that the new technologies are no panacea and the benefits will not automatically transfer to the poor. It is also critical that biotechnology be viewed as "one part of a comprehensive, sustainable poverty reduction strategy, and not as a technological 'quick fix' for Africa's hunger and poverty problems". Other important points are for innovations and investments be made in institutions and to build national and regional consensus to invest in the future. According to UNECA, "the greatest risk for Africa is to do nothing, allowing the biotechnology revolution to pass it by".
The report is available online at http://www.uneca.org/harnessing
and Agricultural Organization
Society of African Scientists
United States of America
Biotechnology Advisory Committee
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