Position Statements on Biotechnology

International Society of African Scientists

Position Statement On Agricultural Biotechnology Applications In Africa And The Caribbean

The International Society of African Scientists (ISAS) held a technical conference on October 5, 2001, on the "Potential Benefits of Biotechnology to Agriculture in Africa and the Caribbean." The following position statement is based on the deliberations at this conference.

  • The International Society of African Scientists (ISAS) believes that agricultural biotechnology represents a major opportunity to enhance the production of food crops, cash crops, and other agricultural commodities in Africa, the Caribbean and other developing nations.

Application of modern biotechnology to agriculture in the advanced countries has already made possible significant crop improvements including insect-resistant corn and cotton, herbicide tolerant soybean; virus-resistant potatoes; delayed ripening tomatoes; and soybeans and corn with higher quality and content of oil and other food components. Africa and the Caribbean cannot afford to be left further behind in acquiring the uses and benefits of this new agricultural revolution.

  • Developing nations, and the African continent in particular, face acute needs to increase food production. These countries stand to derive great benefits from increases in agricultural productivity. Although most biotechnology research to date has focused on agriculture in the advanced nations. ISAS strongly advocates that future research and applications of agricultural biotechnology should place particular emphasis on food production and agricultural needs of developing nations.
  • Governments and civil society in African and the Caribbean nations must actively participate in the worldwide debate on the use of agricultural biotechnology. African scientists need to the at the forefront of this research and debate to help clarify the issues in this debate to their communities. African governments must develop policies and programs to foster rapid developments in agricultural biotechnology as an adjunct to other agricultural techniques, in order to ensure a safe and sufficient supply of food for their populations. In addition, the production and marketability of important cash crops must be promoted to enable African farmers raise their standards of living.
  • As a matter of priority, African and Caribbean governments must establish adequate regulatory oversight and appropriate scientific protocols for agricultural biotechnology. Such regulatory protocols are essential for the introduction of agricultural biotechnology in a manner which does not pose unacceptable health and other environmental risks.

ISAS further recommends the following specific priority measures for implementation of effective agricultural biotechnology policies and programs in Africa and the Caribbean:

Educate African and Caribbean policy-makers regarding the opportunities, as well as the potential risks, associated with agricultural biotechnology.

Increase biotechnology research on food crops important in Africa and other tropical nations. Cassava, cowpea, maize, millet, sorghum and sweet potatoes are important.

Focus research on technologies that offer the most immediate potential for substantial crop and yield improvement in Africa and the Caribbean. Among these technologies are insect resistance, viral and fungal disease resistance and improved nutritional quality of foods.

Strengthen the capacity for agricultural biotechnology in university and non-governmental research institutions in Africa and the Caribbean. Improve the availability of scholarships, fellowships, and training grants to African and Caribbean students to learn the new science in order to facilitate the transfer and application of these new technologies to Africa and the Caribbean.

Increase support for agricultural biotechnology research from both Multilateral Development Organizations and Foreign Aid Donors.

Develop regulatory protocols suitable for Africa and the Caribbean and provide appropriate training for regulatory personnel.

Promote internationally accepted standards for trade involving bioengineered foods, including considerations for potential implications on export crops from Africa and the Caribbean such as bananas, coffee, tea, cocoa, etc

Develop mechanisms for the transfer of technology and intellectual property rights from private biotechnology companies and advanced nation research institutions to Africa and other developing regions.

Promote entrepreneurship and local private sector participation in biotechnology in Africa and the Caribbean.

"We cannot turn back the clock on agriculture and only use methods that were developed to feed a much smaller population. It took some 10,000 years to expand food production to the current level of about 5 billion tons per year. By 2025, we will have to nearly double current production again. This increase cannot be accomplished unless farmers across the world have access to current high-yielding crop production methods as well as new biotechnological breakthroughs that can increase the yields, dependability, and nutritional quality of our basic food crops. We need to bring common sense into the debate on agricultural science and technology and the sooner the better!"

Norman Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Peace Prize recipient


The International Society of African Scientists (ISAS) is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization founded in 1982 to promote the advancement of science and technology among peoples of African descent. ISAS provides a medium through which scientists and engineers can channel their skills to solve technical problems facing Africa and the Caribbean. For more information please see ISAS website (http://www.dca.net/isas).

International Support:

  1. International Organizations
  2. Africa
  3. Asia
  4. Europe
  5. North America
  6. Latin America
  7. Oceania

International Organizations

- Food and Agricultural Organization
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
- World Health Organization
- United Nations Development Programme
- United Nations Environment Programme
- Third World Academy of Sciences

- Agenda 21
- Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
- Vatican Pontifical Academy on Life

- International Council for Science Union

- International Life Sciences Institute


- International Society of African Scientists
- United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
- Africabio
- South African Minister Ngubane's statement at WSSD
- National Biotechnology Strategy for South Africa
- Former Kenyan President Moi's letter to US President Clinton

- Nigerian President Obasanjo's Statement


- Asian Development Bank
- Chinese Academy of Sciences
- Indian National Academy of Sciences
- National Academy of Science and Technology (Philippines)
- Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir's Speech at BioMalaysia 2002
- Policy Statement on Biotechnology (Philippines)


- Royal Society of London

- Prime Minister Blair's speech

- European Commission

- French Academy of Science

North America


United States of America

- American Medical Association
- American Society for Microbiology
- National Academy of Sciences
- National Research Council
- American Society of Plant Biologists
- Federation of Animal Science Societies
- American Midwest Farmers

  • American Agri-Women
  • American Soybean Association
  • National Chicken Council
  • National Corn Growers Association
  • National Cotton Council
  • National Milk Producers Federation
  • National Potato Council
  • National Turkey Federation
  • United Soybean Board


- Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee
- The Royal Society of Canada (The Canadian Academy of the Sciences and Humanities)
- Industry Canada (Federal Department of Industry)
- The 1998 Canadian Biotechnology Strategy: A Ongoing Renewal Process

Latin America

- Brazilian Academy of Sciences
- Mexican Academy of Sciences


- New Zealand Royal Commission

- Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
- Australia New Zealand Food Authority
- Australian Biotechnology: A National Strategy (2000)

- National Farmers' Federation

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