AgBioView Special: Africa -- Sustainable Development, Poverty, Agriculture
and Biotechnology, June 17, 2003:
* Africa to Gain Most from More Investment in Biotech - AID Chief
* Plant Biotech Research In Africa - Dennis Hastert Testimony
* Harnessing Technologies for Sustainable Development in Africa
* Plant Biotech Research in Africa - Testimony by Robert Horsch
* GM Crops 'Could Reduce Poverty'
* Ten Reasons Why Biotechnology Will Be Important to the Developing World
(From Prakash: Sorry about the long posting but these commentaries are
critical and relevant to the upcoming the Ag Ministerial meeting in
Sacramento beginning June 23) ---
More U.S. Investment in Biotech Needed, USAID Chief Says - Adds that
Africa Would Gain Most
- June 13, 2003, State Department Press Releases and Documents
The United States and the international community should continue to
invest more in the development of new agricultural technologies --
including biotechnology -- to prevent millions more Africans from becoming
malnourished and vulnerable to disease and infection, says Andrew Natsios,
administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
"Africa presents the highest potential for realizing major benefits from
biotechnology" because the continent has the world's lowest productivity
of staple food crops, said Natsios, testifying June 12 to a House of
Representatives Science subcommittee.
He emphasized that because of drought and low productivity, this year the
Horn of Africa is in the midst of a food security crisis. "In order to
break the cycle of crisis in the Horn of Africa and other vulnerable
regions around the world, donors must make available and countries must
utilize all resources, including biotechnology, to improve their ability
to meet their food needs," he said.
USAID has tripled its support of biotechnology research for Africa in the
last three years, Natsios said. "Biotechnology can stimulate economic
growth and food security in developing countries," he said. The agency's
approach is to link Africans with the international research community and
build African leadership and decision-making about the science of
"Everything we do in biotechnology is done collaboratively," he said. He
said the agency is expanding its scientific staff and capabilities and is
partnering with U.S. universities and the private sector to develop
technologies to benefit small farmers.
Natisos pointed to Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa as the leading
African countries that support biotechnology. Natsios refuted some of the
criticisms of biotechnology that have been spread in the past few years,
including that it is a tool for "forcing" Africans into accepting unwanted
"U.S. food aid makes the difference between life and death for millions of
people in Africa," he said. U.S. food aid is made up of the same safe food
we consume here [in the United States] and export to Canada, Japan and
dozens of other countries that purchase it."
Following is the text of Natsios' prepared testimony:
Testimony of Andrew S. Natsios Administrator, U.S. Agency for
International Development before the Committee on Science Subcommittee on
Research House of Representatives Washington, D.C.; June 12, 2003
Chairman Smith and Members of the Committee, I am pleased to participate
in this important discussion today on biotechnology research and
development in Africa.
The African Challenge
Hunger and poverty are widespread problems on the African continent. In
sub-Saharan Africa, one-third of the population, almost 200 million
people, are food insecure -- lacking enough food to lead healthy
productive lives. Half of the population in this region, about 300 million
people, lives on less that $1 per day. If current trends continue, by 2010
Africa would account for nearly two-thirds of the undernourished people in
the world. This vicious cycle of hunger and poverty must be broken.
Agriculture offers the means to reverse the trends and stimulate wider
economic growth. Seventy percent of the people in sub-Saharan African live
in rural areas and are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. But
in almost every crucial measure, African agriculture is lagging:
-- Globally, Africa suffers from the lowest productivity of staple food
crops. Yields of basic food grains in Africa are one-fifth those of China.
-- Fertilizer use in Africa is 8 kilograms per hectare; in Latin America
it is over 60 kilograms per hectare, and in Asia, over 100 kilograms per
-- Only 4 percent of Africa's farmland is irrigated; in the Middle East
and Asia, the figures are 29 percent and 34 percent, respectively. -- The
Green Revolution has only begun to touch Africa in the last decade. In
Asia and Latin America, between 60 percent and 80 percent of crop area is
planted with modern varieties; in Africa, the figure is in the 20 to 30
The results are stark: While per capita agricultural productivity rose
sharply in the last forty years in Asia and Latin America, it actually
declined in Africa. There is less food per person now than at the time of
independence, and in some countries, there is much less. You see the
results in the headlines -- hunger, famine, poverty, disease, and the
social and political upheaval that accompany them.
But there is hope. Last month's issue of the journal Science carried an
article by Professor Robert Evenson of Yale University showing that, in
the last decade, improved crop varieties are finally reaching African
farmers. Progress has been slow because of the harsh physical environment
and the many crop pests and diseases in Africa. We need to foster this new
trend to increase productivity at the farm level so that agriculture
becomes an engine of growth and prosperity in Africa. If this is done
well, Africa will eventually be able to feed its people.
The scientific resource base in Africa has suffered from years of
underinvestment. We need to invest in science to increase productivity in
the basic food crops of Africa -- corn, cassava, cowpeas, bananas, and
rice. New tools in agriculture, such as the application of modern
biotechnology, need to be brought to bear to address Africa's agricultural
problems. Biotechnology alone cannot solve the complex problems of poverty
and hunger; it is not a "silver bullet."
But it is a critical part of the solution, and cannot be ignored. Why?
Analysis from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
shows that by 2020, between 6 and 16 million more African children will be
malnourished if we do not turn the situation around. What does this mean?
Sadly, it means that if we do not act, poverty, disease and death will
increase in Africa. The World Health Organization tells us that 56 percent
of all child mortality is due to underlying malnutrition that makes
children vulnerable to disease and infection.
But, if we can increase annual crop productivity growth from 1.5 percent
to 2.5 percent, the opposite happens. In that case, 11 million fewer
children will be hungry, and millions less will die young from diarrhea,
malaria and other diseases. Knowing this, can anyone in good conscience
say that we should close off a whole new area of science that can help us
reach these and greater goals?
Unfortunately, some outside groups have actively spread misinformation
about biotechnology, trying to sow confusion and fear. I would like to
take a few minutes to describe to you some of the falsehoods that have
been spread by those who for unfathomable reasons want to prevent the
benefits of modern science from helping some of the world's poorest
Frequent Criticisms Leveled at Biotechnology
Charge: Biotechnology is not what Africa needs, and investment in it is
taking away from other interventions.
In the wake of the International Food Policy Research Institute studies,
it is patently untrue to assert that Africa does not need biotechnology.
Africa needs agricultural growth, and economic studies tell us that
accelerated productivity growth due to biotechnology will be crucial to
reducing hunger and poverty. It is not true to say that biotechnology
takes away from our other investments; biotechnology complements and
enhances those investments. What is true is that other donors should be
doing far more, but because of political constraints, they under-invest in
Charge: Accepting biotechnology crops will make African farmers dependant
on multinational companies.
USAID is working with African universities and national research programs
to develop African solutions to Africa's problems. In some cases, they may
choose to work with international partners as a means of accessing
important new technologies. Local companies may do the same thing. These
alliances are happening in Africa, India and elsewhere. Farmers in Africa
will be able to decide for themselves whether biotech crops are in their
economic interest. If biotech seeds give them a good return, then and only
then will they decide to purchase the seeds.
Charge: Biotechnology-derived crops will adversely affect the environment
In science, there is no such thing as "no risk" with any new crop variety
of any other technology. But all experience to date, here in the United
States, Canada, Argentina, the Philippines, India and South Africa, shows
that potential risks can be managed in safe and effective ways. The safety
of biotechderived crops needs to be examined by applying science-based
biosafety policies. USAID supports capacity building in public
institutions in Africa so that they can operate good, effective regulatory
systems. USAID is working with African partners to understand and manage
potential environmental issues such as gene flow, for example.
While not downplaying risk, we also need to consider the environmental and
health benefits of biotechnology, for example, in reducing use of
dangerous pesticides. The New York Times has reported that, in China,
farmers who have adopted biotech cotton no longer need to purchase
atropine for themselves and their children. Their children were literally
being poisoned by pesticides. Now they can enjoy a safer and cleaner
Charge: Growing biotechnology-derived crops will harm export of
agricultural products to Europe.
There is no question that the lack of a functional; science-based
regulatory system and the irrational fear of biotechnology in the European
Union have affected development of biotechnology products in Africa. The
reality is that most biotechnology applications for smallholder,
food-insecure farmers in Africa are not likely to affect commodities
exported to Europe. Unfortunately, misinformation has added to these
concerns that somehow biotech genes will cross from one species to
another, from corn to fruit trees, or equally wild assertions.
Charge: U.S. food aid containing biotech crops is a tool to dump unwanted
grain and force Africans into accepting biotechnology.
U.S. food aid makes the difference between life and death for millions of
people in Africa. Despite this, rumors have been spread that pig genes are
being cloned in crops destined for countries with large Muslim
populations. Even African senior government officials have shared these
concerns with me. The truth is that U.S. food aid is made up of the same
safe food we consume here and export to Canada, Japan and dozens of other
countries that purchase it. Furthermore, the food is intended for
consumption and would be poorly adapted and of little interest to farmers
if planted under Africa's environments.
Potential of Biotechnology in realizing Agricultural Productivity in
Africa presents the highest potential for realizing major benefits from
biotechnology precisely because it lags behind the rest of the world in
using agricultural inputs. Low yields due to pests, diseases, drought and
even poor soils can be boosted by application of readily available tools
of biotechnology, and bring significant economic benefits to small-scale
This has been demonstrated to be the case in the adoption of
biotechnology-derived corn and cotton among smallholder farmers in South
Africa, the only country to adopt these crops in Africa. In the Makatini
Flats in South Africa, seventy percent of the cotton grown is "Bt cotton,"
containing a pest-resistant gene derived from the bacterium Bacillus
thuringiensis (Bt): Small-scale cotton farmers in this region, primarily
women, typically farming just a few acres, have captured significant
economic benefits due to increased yields, decreased pesticide usage and
overall saving in farm labor. Yield increases have been greater than 30
percent. These increases combined with decreased input and labor costs
have resulted in income increases of approximately 30 percent. Similarly,
farmers growing insect-resistant yellow and white corn in South Africa are
starting to see increased economic benefits, and the acreage of these
biotechnology derived crops is rising.
To realize the potential of biotechnology we will need to foster
international partnerships to enable African scientists to apply
biotechnology in the near term, while building their human and
institutional capacity in the longer term. Some African political leaders
recognize the role of science and technology in improving African
agriculture. President Obasanjo of Nigeria has publicly endorsed
biotechnology and criticized the efforts of those seeking to prevent its
benefit from coming to Africa. South Africa has moved even farther
forward, approving new crop varieties just recently. It is encouraging to
see Africa's two largest economies embracing these new technologies. We
can hope their example is emulated elsewhere.
USAID's Biotechnology Effort
USAID has been, and continues to be, a leader in taking on these
challenges to ensure that Africa is part of this new scientific
revolution. In the last three years, we have more than tripled our support
for biotechnology through the launching of the Collaborative Agricultural
Biotechnology Initiative (CABIO).
The CABIO Initiative is one component of our overall agricultural strategy
for stimulating economic growth and food security in developing countries.
It brings to bear the tools of modern biotechnology to increase
agricultural productivity and improve environmental sustainability and
nutrition. We conduct research and analysis to develop technology and
policy, we build human and institutional capacity, and we broadly engage
our partner countries in every aspect of the program. The CABIO Initiative
builds upon USAID's 12 years of experience in biotechnology, carrying
forward lessons learned while adapting to changes in the economic and
In Africa, the activities of the CABIO Initiative are directly linked to
President Bush's Initiative to End Hunger in Africa (IEHA). This
initiative calls for a partnership with African leaders and governments to
work together to invest in a smallholder-oriented agricultural growth
strategy. Science and technology, including our support for biotechnology,
is one of the two major thrusts of IEHA, with markets and trade being the
USAID's biotechnology approach in Africa has two, goals:
-- to link Africans to the international research community to develop
biotechnology for the benefit of small African farmers; and
-- to build African leadership and decision-making, vis-a-vis using
biotechnology domestically, to ensure that Africa drives its own future.
To achieve these goals USAID has supported a number of important African
organizations to develop strategies in biotechnology in leading countries
like Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and South Africa. We also support networks of
agricultural research institutions that can expand the impact of research
beyond one country. These include the sub-regional organizations,
Association for Strengthening Research in East and Central Africa, and the
West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and
Development. USAID is also supporting the Forum for Agricultural Research
in Africa (FARA), an emerging voice for African agriculture, which is
linked to the implementation of the African-led New Partnership for
African Development (NEPAD).
Partnerships and Alliances
As we move forward in realizing the potential of this technology for
Africa, we recognize that we will have greater impact through strategic
partnerships and alliances between our development resources and with
those engaged in the cutting-edge science. Our key partners in this effort
are public and private sector institutions, in the United States, in
African countries and international organizations.
U.S. universities and industry lead the world in biotechnology research:
USAID is partnering with these institutions to develop crops resistant to
diseases and pests. A number of U.S. universities partner with USAID in
developing technologies to address agricultural constraints in Africa and
in policy development and outreach activities in biotechnology. These
include Cornell University, University of California at Davis, Tuskegee
University, Michigan State University, and Purdue University. We also work
closely with centers of excellence, the Danforth Plant Science Center in
St. Louis being a prime example:
Since the earliest programs in Africa, the Agency has leveraged the
tremendous investments and technical expertise of the private sector
through partnerships aimed at developing technology for small farmers.
Beginning with a partnership with Monsanto Company to develop
virus-resistant sweet potatoes for Kenya in 1990, we have continued
engagement with the private sector. We have an on-going partnership with
Syngenta Company to develop insect-resistant potatoes for Africa.
Biotechnology also opens up new avenues to fight old problems. The World
Health Organization tells us that between 100 million and 140 million
children in the developing world suffer from vitamin A deficiency. Each
year, between one-quarter and one-half million of these children go blind,
and many more die as a result of greater susceptibility to infection. In a
partnership involving Monsanto Company, Iowa State University, the
University of Illinois, and two Consultative Group for International
Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centers, USAID is supporting the development
of vitamin A enhanced corn for Africa. In India, we are developing vitamin
A mustard oil. It will also have potential to save lives in some parts of
It is clear that projects such as these require the best science
available. USAID is, of course, first and foremost a development agency.
Although we are expanding our scientific staff and capabilities, we
recognize that to capture the cutting edge of science, for example, to use
crop genomics to produce more drought tolerant varieties, we will need to
partner with the scientific resources of agencies such as the U.S.
Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation. Similarly,
the private sector is a major source of cutting-edge technology. We have
found that those in the private sector are more than ready to see their
skills applied to the needs of poor people. All of these alliances can
lead to breakthroughs that can ultimately benefit farmers here at home, as
well as in Africa and the rest of the developing world.
We are also partnering with others outside the U.S. Government, such as
the international agricultural research centers (IARCs) sponsored by the
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. These centers
provide a vital link in our efforts to integrate biotechnology into
programs to develop improved, higher-yielding and more stress-tolerant
crop varieties. Some of the technologies we are supporting include
virus-resistant cassava, fungal-resistant bananas, "golden maize,"
drought-tolerant wheat, insect-resistant cowpea, and many others.
The CGAIR centers serve as a bridge between universities and other
advanced institutions in the United States and international
nongovernmental organizations and other partners working with millions of
farm families in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.
Increasingly, USAID is designing its investments to strengthen linkages
between our U.S. partners and the research and development programs of the
CGAIR centers, increasing the effectiveness of all partners in applying
science and also in making sure that innovative technologies reach the
We are also working closely with the Rockefeller Foundation to establish
the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). The Foundation is a
new and unique public-private partnership designed to assist smallholder
farmers in Africa to gain access to existing agricultural technologies,
including biotechnology, with the goal of relieving food insecurity and
alleviating poverty. USAID contributes $500,000 a year of core support to
the AATF. AATF complements and links with additional USAID funding through
our African partners. I am sure Gordon Conway will discuss the AATF in
Summary and Conclusions
I would like to conclude by underscoring the importance of African
leadership and partnerships with African countries and institutions. The
region faces the greatest needs, and provides a compelling case for
harnessing all tools in the fight against hunger and poverty. These are
not just biotechnology tools, but they include biotechnology, and these
tools can help us realize a new Africa where food security and prosperity
predominate, and where hunger and famine are things of the past.
USAID's programs in biotechnology reinforce the ability of Africans to
make their own decisions. Everything we do in biotechnology is done
collaboratively -- from problem identification and priority setting to
aiding the development of policies designed to establish risk assessment
programs and protect intellectual property. Our programs are
demand-driven. Our African partners want and need the strategic uses of
biotechnology in agricultural research and development. USAID is
committed, with your help and support, to ensuring that the scientific
revolution in agriculture bypasses no one, least of all poor farm families
A small farmer in South Africa is already living this vision of Africa. On
his 10 acres, T.J. Buthelezi grows biotech cotton and gets four times the
yield he used to. For the first time, he says, "I'm making money!" He and
his wife have been able to decide how to spend and invest their newfound
income, instead of struggling just at the subsistence level. His example
is not unique. Farmers are finding that biotech crops can give them money
for school fees, medicines and other necessities that just a few years ago
I am glad to tell you that this hopeful outlook is Africa's own vision.
Two weeks ago, the Forum on Agricultural Research in Africa, charged with
the agenda of the New Program for Africa's Development, or NEPAD, held a
meeting in Dakar. I would like to read you one of the six priorities that
are contained in the Dakar Declaration:
"[the participants]...declare their commitment to-building Africa's human
and physical capability in biotechnology to be able to engage with global
public and private sector partners to capture the advances needed to
sustainably intensify African agriculture..."
That need is urgent. This year the Horn of Africa is in the middle of a
serious food security crisis caused, in part, by drought and low
agricultural productivity. The United States alone has provided more than
$350 million of food aid to address urgent food needs in the region. In
order to break the cycle of crisis in the Horn of Africa and other
vulnerable regions around the world, donors must make available and
countries must utilize all resources, including biotechnology, to improve
their ability to meet their food needs. Through biotechnology, improved
drought and pest resistant seeds have been developed that mitigate the
effects of adverse weather and insects on food production. Through U.S.
leadership in investments in science and technology, the international
community can help Africa strengthen its agriculture and ensure that the
specter of famine is someday just a memory.
USAID is ready and eager to work with your Committee, with others in
Congress, and within the Executive Branch in making our common vision,
shared between the United States and Africa, of an Africa without
starvation and famine, a reality in our lifetime.
Plant Biotechnology Research In Africa
- Statement of J. Dennis Hastert Representative (IL-14); Federal Document
Clearing House Congressional Testimony June 12, 2003
Thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to appear before the Committee
today to comment on the future of biotechnology research. I appreciate
your Committee's work on this important issue, and thank you for holding
As the Representative of the 14th District in Illinois, my district
currently covers portions of eight counties, including four of the top 25
corn-producing counties, and three of the top 50 soybean-producing
counties in the nation. The State of Illinois is the second-largest
producing state of both corn and soybeans in the country. Forty percent of
this production currently goes to exports, valued at approximately $2.7
billion per year. U.S. agriculture ranks among the top U.S industries in
export sales. In fact, the industry generated a $12 billion trade surplus
in 2001, helping mitigate the growing merchandise trade deficit. It is
important to realize, however, that 34% of all corn acres and 75% of all
soybean acres are genetically modified.
And what exactly are we talking about when we say "genetically modified?"
The EU and other countries would have you believe this is a new and
special type of food, questionable for human consumption. In fact, since
the dawn of time, farmers have been modifying plants to improve yields and
create new varieties resistant to pests and diseases. Why would we want to
snuff out human ingenuity that benefits farmers and consumers alike?
Such advancements have been achieved by taking plants with desirable
traits and crossbreeding them. In fact, almost all of today's commercial
crops are now distant cousins from the plants that first appeared in this
country. Biotechnology is merely the next stage of development in this
With respect to biotechnology research, both agricultural and
pharmaceutical, the U.S. has been the undisputed world leader. In fact, my
district alone includes two research facilities that directly contribute
to the efforts in assisting third world countries through the development
of drought-resistant varieties of agricultural products.
Yet, over the last few years we have seen country after country
implementing protectionist trade policies under the cloak of food safety -
each one brought on by emotion, culture, or their own poor history with
food safety regulation.
Among others, China has developed new rules for the approval and labeling
of biotech products. An overwhelming portion of the entire $1 billion U.S.
soybean export crop is genetically modified. Although implementation has
been delayed, such a labeling program would certainly result in higher
food costs for consumers and higher production costs for farmers.
And of course most troubling, American farmers have been subject to an
indefensible five-year moratorium imposed by the European Union on
agricultural biotechnology. This is a non-tariff barrier based simply on
prejudice and misinformation, not sound science. In fact, their own
scientists agree that genetically modified foods are safe.
Simply put, this type of non-tariff protectionism is detrimental to the
free movement of goods and services across borders. We all know that free
trade benefits all countries. However, free trade will be rendered
meaningless if it is short-circuited by non- tariff barriers that are
based on fear and conjecture - not science.
In fact, there is general consensus among the scientific community that
genetically modified food is no different from conventional food. What's
different is not the content of the food, but the process by which it is
made. Even labeling genetically modified products would only mislead
consumers and create an atmosphere of fear.
I congratulate President Bush and Ambassador Zoellick for meeting this
resistance head-on and putting American farmers and sound science first by
challenging the EU's illegal trade ban on genetically modified foods
before the WTO. And I applaud Argentina and Canada for joining us in this
critical effort to support a technology that holds colossal benefits for
producers and consumers throughout the world.
As part of this endeavor, it's also important for the public to know that
the U.S. government has safely regulated biotechnology since its inception
over 30 years ago. And with the rapid evolution of plant biotechnology in
the early 1980s, additional regulation was added. Ask any American farmer
about government regulation and not one will tell you that they are under-
Biotechnology products are screened by at least one, and often by as many
as three, federal agencies. From conception to commercial introduction, it
can take up to 10 years to bring a biotech variety to market. Throughout
the process, the public has ample opportunity for participation and
comment, and data on which regulatory decisions are based are readily
Nevertheless, regardless of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we
should all be concerned that this irrational policy is spreading. And, as
a point of fact, the worldwide impact has been staggering.
The current EU moratorium on genetically-modified products has translated
into an annual loss of over $300 million in corn exports for U.S. farmers.
More disturbing is the recent trend in Africa, where several nations have
rejected U.S. food aid because the shipments contained biotech corn. This
based solely on the fear that EU countries will not accept their food
exports if genetically modified seeds spread to domestic crops.
Specifically, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique refused U.S. food aid which
consisted of biotech corn. Zimbabwe and Mozambique eventually accepted the
aid, but only after making costly arrangements to mill the corn so African
farmers could not try to grow it.
In addition, it was recently reported that Sudan denied the entry of
genetically-modified agricultural products as aid in relief camps.
According to USAID, this will bring harm to around 97% of children living
in relief camps - this is simply unconscionable.
Furthermore, the Ugandan Government has refused to take advantage of
biotech bananas because of fears that the EU will retaliate and refuse to
buy their exports.
Consequently, U.S. farmers are already beginning to plant more non-biotech
seeds. This trend will increase farmers' cost of production as well as
increase the damage from harmful insects. In fact, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency has recently approved a corn technology that will allow
the commercialization of the first corn designed to control rootworm - a
pest that costs U.S. farmers approximately $1 billion in lost revenue per
year. It is absurd to think that farmers would not be able to take
advantage of this technology.
Clearly, the long-term impact of these policies could be disastrous for
U.S. farmers and research efforts in terms of competitiveness and the
ability to provide food for the world's population. Addressing world
hunger is particularly critical when approximately 800 million people are
malnourished in the developing world, and another 100 million go hungry
each day. Biotechnology is the answer to this pressing problem. Farmers
can produce better yields through drought-tolerant varieties, which are
rich in nutrients and more resistant to insects and weeds, while those in
need reap the benefits.
Halting or even slowing down the development of this technology could have
dire consequences for countries where populations are growing rapidly and
all arable land is already under cultivation.
One would think that the European Union, and any country that has adopted
similar protectionist policies, would embrace a technology with such
promising advantages. Sadly, they have not. It has become clear, that only
official WTO action will send a convincing message to the world that
prohibitive policies on biotechnology, which are not based on sound
science, are illegal.
Hopefully, the WTO will act quickly to resolve the Administration's case
on behalf of American farmers and ongoing research efforts. There's no
doubt that the U.S. and American agriculture go into this battle with the
facts on our side. We simply cannot allow the free trade of our
agricultural products to be restricted by these unfair and unjust
policies. After all, the price of inaction is one we can no longer afford
Harnessing Technologies for Sustainable Development in Africa
- K.Y. Amoako, 5th Annual Peter Doherty Distinguished Lecture, April 10,
2003 Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa, International
Livestock Research Institute, Addis Ababa (Abridged version below. Full
Text as pdf file from Prof. Drew Kershen )
Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I consider the development of Africa to
be among the most pressing issues of our time. That's why we have no
alternative but to speak candidly together about it. That's why there's no
point in m e pretending that Africa hasn't got very major challenges to
face, or that it's going to be anything other than a very tough slog to
meet these challenges successfully. I'm going to spend some time outlining
these problems this afternoon, so we can have no illusions about them. But
I'm going to insist that we can't be defeated by these problems, that the
needs of our people are so great that we must move forward, and that it is
still possible to see a brighter picture in which Africa takes her destiny
into her own hands and designs her own future.
What's more, I'm in charge of an entire organization here in this city
that is dedicated to nothing less than helping m ake this future possible.
But I'm here today to say that it can only happen if Africa harnesses
science and technology for sustainable development.
During this lecture, I'll try to convey my idea of sustainable development
and why it has declined in Africa over the last 30 years. I'll argue that
sustainability is a direct function of institutional development, human
and physical capital accumulation as well as productivity. I'll indicate a
few of the most critical challenges Africa must address to achieve
sustainable development and a better life for its citizens. Then I'll
suggest how new technologies can help respond to these challenges.
Mr. Chairman, I don't intend to present these technologies, formidable as
they are, as panaceas of some kind. There are no panaceas for Africa, and
in any event, I'll show that we can do much more to address many of
Africa's problems with existing and conventional technologies. Finally, I
ask the all-important question: "W ho's going to do all of the things I'll
be recommending?" The answer, as you'll soon hear, involves all of us---
African governments, civil society organizations, NGOs, and Africa's
Let m e turn first to the concept of sustainable development, a phrase
that's frequently thrown around but, I sense, not always grasped. In fact,
from my vantage point as a Development Economist, sustainable development
is easy to explain but substantially more difficult to realize. Basically,
it is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising
the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is a pattern
of development that ensures a steady enhancement of well-being over time.
It requires structural changes that lead to enduring widespread
improvements in the quality of life of a society. So, I'm not talk ing
about the latest development fad or easy election-tim e promises.
Sustainable development requires a systematic, carefully coordinated,
interconnected series of policies and strategies that will improve
people's lives in a progressive, irreversible, palpable manner.
With this concept in mind, how has Africa fared in the last 30 years? Have
we developed, and have we developed sustainably? Not long ago, my
colleagues at the ECA developed some indices to answer these questions. We
used Cluster analysis to classify 38 African countries into three
relatively homogenous groups. We categorized them as high sustainability,
moderate sustainability and low sustainability. Overall, I regret to
report, we found sustainability in Africa to have worsened.
Looking at the decade between 1985 and 1994, we found that no African
country achieved high sustainability, only a few achieved moderate overall
sustainability, but most fell into the cluster of low sustainability. What
we discovered was that while significant progress had often been made in
health and education in this period, these gains were offset in many
countries by poor governance and conflict. At the same time, in many large
African countries, population density and environmental hazards increased
Between 1995 and 2000, the number of countries with low sustainability rem
ained about the same. In many of them, large population increases were
accompanied by the deterioration of economic, institutional and environm
ental management. W e then ranked countries by their average overall
sustainability score for all of 1975-2000. Mauritius, South Africa,
Botswana, Zimbabwe and Tunisia emerged as the top five, while at the
bottom were Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Chad and
We were not surprised by these results. South Africa's large
industrialized economy set it aside from other African economies, while
Mauritius and Botswana were the star economic performers. Both these
countries also ranked as the top two in institutional sustainability. On
the other hand, all of the top five ranked poorly in environmental
sustainability. What does all of this research mean?
It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that there are a few key lessons here. To
begin, countries with higher sustainability also tend to have more stable
governments, they have little or no conflict (with the exception of South
Africa until the 1990s and Zimbabwe until recently), a military with
little or no role in political matters, lower corruption, higher-quality
bureaucracies, higher saving rates and higher per capita spending on
health and education.
Next, it is possible for countries to do well for a while without giving
consideration to environmental factors. Ultimately, however, there is no
question that they will suffer the consequences of such neglect.
Finally, national efforts to achieve sustainable development should
emphasize productive capacity and its key determinants - institutions and
human resources. All countries need the rule of law, civil and political
rights, high quality government policies and agencies, and effective m
echanisms of conflict management. As you can see then, to have a chance of
succeeding, the sustainable development that Africa needs must have three
dimensions: economic sustainability, environmental sustainability, and
I hope the implication of this analysis is clear enough. The fact is that
we know what we need to achieve the goal of sustainable development. But I
don't pretend it will be easy. There are at least six critical challenges
which we must address and cure if we are to have a chance at success.
Mr, Chairman, Ladies and Gentlem en, let's begin with the most fundamental
development challenge in Africa today: poverty reduction. Although they're
widely known, let me remind you of some of the data. They are, frankly,
both dispiriting and embarrassing. With 4 out of every 10 people living on
less than US$1 per day, Africa is the poorest continent, despite being one
of the most richly endowed. The continent includes 25 of the world's 30
poorest countries, and Sub-Saharan Africa is host to 32 of the 48 least
developed countries. Worse, poverty has gained in numbers, affecting 50
percent more Africans over the last 14 years.
The number of Sub-Saharan Africans currently living below the poverty line
(over 180 million people) is expected to exceed 300 million by 2020; these
are people without adequate access to food, housing, education and health
care. Overall, while the world may meet the Millennium Development Goal of
cutting the proportion of people living in poverty from 22 percent today
to 11 percent by 2015, Africa will likely be stuck at around 37
percent---more than three times the projected global average. The stark
reality, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that Africa is not even able to feed
itself and must rely on 3.23 million tonnes of food aid annually to stave
Without any question, the key to reversing this trend is agriculture. Yet,
African agriculture displays the lowest yields in the world. Less than 6%
of Africa's arable and permanent cropland is irrigated, compared to an
average of 33% for Asia. The data are even worse if we look only at
sub-Saharan Africa. It's only too obvious, then, that African agriculture
has failed to keep pace with human population growth and in most cases, it
has actually under-performed the pre-independence period.
In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa is the only major developing region where per
capita food-grain output has declined over the last four decades. In the
few cases where high per capita production is observed, growth is mostly a
result of area expansion, with yield increases accounting for less than 2
percent. Overall, to underline this unhappy reality, Africa today depends
on im ports for 25 per cent of its food grain requirements.
There is yet another reason Africa must fight poverty through an
agricultural revolution: I refer to the very spatial distribution of
population and poverty, and to the structure of the majority of African
economies. Despite the exponential population growth in m ost Africa
cities that we've all experienced, 3/4 of all Africans still live in rural
areas. Some 70 percent of all poor Africans are rural and, despite rapid
urbanization, we expect that a majority of the poor will still be rural in
2020. Directly or indirectly, the income and livelihood of almost the
entire rural population depend primarily on agricultural enterprises.
On top of this, we know that urban poverty and rural poverty are
inter-linked with rural-urban migration. To sum up, then: For the majority
of African households today, domestic food and agricultural production,
processing and marketing remain overriding determinants of overall income,
availability of, and access to, food.
But, Mr. Chairman, let m e make a related point that should be
self-evident but is not adequately taken into account by policy-makers:
Serious agriculture cannot be practiced by people who are unhealthy and
who must spend large proportion of their incomes and time fighting old and
re-emerging diseases that are savaging the workforce and are directly
affecting food security throughout the continent. To improve agriculture,
in other words, it is imperative that we also combat ill health.
It is hardly breaking news that as we settle into the 21st century,
science and technology have become pervasive in all sectors of human
endeavour. They shape the way we grow our food and eat it, the way we
dress, the way we travel, the way we learn and work, the way we
communicate, and the way we make war and peace. In the last century alone,
science and technology generated more knowledge than in all the epochs of
human existence put together. Hundreds of millions of people have already
enjoyed the fruits of this explosion in enhanced health, education, life
expectancy, reduced maternal mortality, labour saving, and entertainment.
And yet, Mr Chairman, it appears that this is only the beginning. The line
between science and science fiction is becoming blurred, and non-experts
like me can only watch with awe. In the 20th century, humans were
intelligent observers of nature. In the 21st century, we are changing it.
In the 20th century, we depended on natural resources for wealth. In the
21st century, we are creating wealth, by mastering the three revolutions
of physics, information intelligence and biomolecular science, and the way
Everyone knows that the quantum leaps of the 20th century will accelerate
more rapidly in our own time. New discoveries (science), and their
applications (technology), are going to drive agriculture, medicine,
income growth, and new materials in ways we can barely imagine. Fearless
forecasts predict that by 2020 we'll have computers that we can wear, cars
that can see, precision agriculture, health implants, and bionics. We'll
be able to create and manipulate intelligence on demand. We will have the
awesome, almost frightening, ability to repair and m anipulate life,
rather than simply watching it. We already have crops that produce greater
yields, and soon those crops will resist pests and diseases while offering
positive nutritional, health, and environmental attributes. In the 20th
century, we found a way to curtail mother-to-child transmission of
HIV/AIDS and to slow down the virus with anti-retroviral drugs. In the
21st century, it is not unrealistic to expect that a potent vaccine could
soon be developed against HIV and other diseases which decimate our human
My friends, this is a perfectly plausible snapshot of the future which
awaits the world through innovations in science and technology. I say "the
world". But for us, the real question is clear: W here does Africa stand
in all of this? And the answer, I fear, is that for us, the future is
still too far away.
The United Nations Development Program has produced a technology
achievement index. It measures technology creation, technology diffusion
and the human skills that go with harnessing technology. The index, I'm
sorry to report, rates Africa poorly: Of 5 categories, no African country
is in the highest two. Four are in the middle category, 5 are in the
second to bottom category, described as "marginalized" technologically,
and all the rest---the other 46 African countries-all land in the bottom
category, dubbed "below marginalized".
Look what this means in practice. Compared to other developing regions of
the world, African agriculture is substantially low-level and
As I said earlier, barely 6 percent of Africa's arable and permanent
cropland is irrigated, compared with an average of 33.3 percent for Asia,
25 percent for India and 47 percent for China. Fertilizer use per hectare
of arable land in Africa stands at only 8 percent and 20 percent of the
levels reached respectively in Latin America and Asia.
Relative to Africa, the number of tractors per thousand hectares of arable
land is nearly 3 times greater in Asia and 8 times greater in Latin
Let's look at some other important indices: Africa is still at an earlier
stage of scientific and institutional development than India was on the
eve of the Green Revolution almost three decades ago.
In a typical developed country, there are about 2,000 scientists and
engineers in research and development per 100,000 people. The three
leaders of Africa in this category - South Africa, Egypt and Gabon-- have
one-half to one-eighth that ratio. In the rest of Africa, the numbers
range from 3 (in Senegal) to 21 (in Uganda).
Mr Chairman, as I promised at the beginning of this lecture, I've been
candid about the many tough and frustrating challenges that Africa faces.
But we must not allow ourselves to despair and give up. I'd argue that we
are not allowed to give up. For m yself, I continue to see real
opportunities as well as the tools to turn those opportunities into
realities. I see an Africa that learns to take advantage of new
technologies without throwing away the lessons and opportunities of
existing, conventional ones.
In my view, there are two aspects of modern technologies that are directly
relevant to solving Africa's most critical problems These are
biotechnology for health and agriculture, and Information and
Communication Technology--ICT, as it's universally called-for m any
aspects of sustainable development. Biotechnology, as you probably know
much better than I, is a mind-boggling collection of techniques or
processes that employs organisms (or their units) to develop useful
products and services. If I understand it properly, traditional
biotechnology includes plant and animal breeding and the use of
micro-organisms and enzymes in fermentation, control of pests and
preservation of products. Modern biotechnology refers to the use of
recombinant DNA techniques-- the transfer of genetic material from one
organism to another--- and the detailed analysis of genetic information of
organisms. I'm sure you're also aware that the traditional and modern are
sometimes used together, as in the use of recombinant enzymes and genetic
markers in fermentation and animal breeding.
According to the latest research, in 1992 the biotech industry employed
fewer than 100,000 people and generated $8 billion. By 2001, it had
exploded, employing 190,000, and generating $35 billion. The number of
modern biotechnology drugs and vaccines increased from 23 in 1990 to over
130 by 2001. About 350 biotechnology-derived drugs and vaccines are in
clinical trials targeting over 200 diseases. The genetic material of a
number of organisms, including mosquito and malaria-causing organism, have
been either sequenced or decoded.
Biological catalysts or enzymes, I'm told, are now used in almost every
industry, especially in food processing, leather and textile, personal
care, pharmaceuticals and cleaning; about 600 catalyst-products and 75
enzymes are presently used. At the same time, the area of farmland planted
with transgenic crops has increased from about 3 million hectares (in
1996) to about 53 million hectares in 2001. Micro-organisms and plants
that either remove or degrade toxic compounds have also been used to
reclaim wastelands, while many firms have successfully used biotechnology
techniques to decrease energy and water consumption, improve productivity
and reduce the time involved in processing. All of these techniques can
lead to an improved environment, sustainable use of resources, and
increased productivity. And that is the basis of m y personal fascination
Fortunately, however, while the realities of agriculture and health in
Africa make the case for urgent use of biotechnology, the region is still
seriously lagging behind on the biotech map. In fact, the m ain
beneficiaries of current biotechnology revolution are developed countries
who of course have nothing like the food security and health problems that
face Africa. The United States, Canada and Europe, for instance, account
for about 97 per cent of global biotechnology revenues, 96 per cent of
persons employed in the industry and 88 per cent of the total
I don't mean that the case is for eveloping countries is entirely
hopeless. For example, in the last six years, the areas planted with
transgenic crops in developing countries grew from 1.2 million hectares to
14 million hectares. But the truth is that as of 2001, of 7 developing
countries growing these crops, South Africa was the only Africa country.
But I don't want to concentrate here on biotechnology alone, Mr. Chairman.
Let me also indicate my continuing faith in older, conventional
technologies. While we are no longer in doubt about the benefit of
biotechnology for Africa, the fact is that many of these technologies may
not be readily available for a long time to those who need them most - the
farmers and those suffering from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis who
I've been discussing. There are also, I want to emphasize, legitimate
concerns about several important aspects of biodiversity, including
biosafety, which I don't for a moment want to underestimate.
In a way, these are the best arguments for sticking with what works in
existing technologies. As aptly demonstrated by Gordon Conway in his
lecture to this body in 1999, agro-ecological technologies work. There are
well-established technologies that successfully enhance soil productivity.
We have bio-control strategies that can get rid of many of the bugs that
destroy cash crops and seeds that are resistant to them.
I don't mean, of course, that all older technologies are as effective as
they can be, and in fact we know that many of them can be complemented
with new biotechnologies to make them substantially more productive. These
are common sense ideas that should be possible to implement.
This litany is long, and I could go on at very great length. But for the
moment, let me merely re-emphasize that in the pursuit of sustainable
development for Africa, our international partners have an indispensable
role to play.
Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, those are my thoughts this afternoon,
and I thank you for your attention. I don't need to add m uch in
conclusion, beyond saying this: The truth is that Africa cannot afford to
miss the opportunities that science and technology are now offering it.
It's all there in front of us. The time for speeches is past. As
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said only last month in his W orld Water Day
message, "We must move from promises to practice, from commitments to
concrete projects, from intentions to implementations."
Ladies and Gentlemen, It is, in the end, in our own hands.
Plant Biotechnology Research in Africa
- Congressional Testimony by Robert Horsch, Monsanto Co; June 12, 2003
Federal Document Clearing House. Truncated version below. For full
In the last 60 years alone, the world's population has tripled from 2
billion to 6 billion. The United Nations estimates there will be another 2
billion people by the year 2020, most living in the world's poorest
With more people in the world, we're going to have to find ways to provide
more food. According to Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, "You've got two
choices. Either you improve yields so that you can continue to produce the
food that is needed on the soil that is well-adapted to agricultural
production, or you'll be pushed into cutting down more forests."
We believe that biotechnology will be a crucial part of expanding
agricultural productivity in the 21st century because it will help people
to grow more and better food that is needed today, while also conserving
natural resources that are important for a sustainable future. This
technology can be particularly beneficial for Africa and the developing
world where productive agriculture is so crucial.
Agricultural Situation in Africa
Through my position at Monsanto, I also have had the opportunity to travel
to many of these countries and to witness the daunting agricultural
challenges faced by farmers in Africa. Mr. Chairman, I'd like to share
with you and the subcommittee my assessment of the agricultural challenges
faced in Africa -challenges that make it difficult for farmers there to
grow a healthy harvest.
In general, there is a lack of infrastructure and markets in Africa to
support development of local businesses, economy, and trade. In terms of
agriculture, this lack of infrastructure makes it difficult to get modern
tools to farmers, including fertilizer, improved seed, and crop protection
In addition to this lack of infrastructure, environmental conditions in
Africa make it difficult for farmers there to cultivate a healthy crop.
All across Africa, despite hard work and ingenuity, significant portions
of the harvests are often lost to factors farmers cannot control. These
factors include depleted soils that lack sufficient nutrients to grow a
decent crop; a lack of rainfall and water for irrigation results in severe
and frequent drought; and plagues and pests, including weeds and insects.
Robert Paarlberg, professor at Wellesley College, in an article titled
Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture in the 21st Century recently said,
"The social welfare consequences of this farm productivity failure in
Africa have been devastating. Lagging productivity on small farms is the
chief reason why 30 percent of children in Africa are still chronically
malnourished. For Africa more than any other region, the problem of
inadequate food consumption grows directly from an unsolved farm
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, cereal production in
sub-Saharan Africa is now 19 percent lower on a per-capita basis than it
was in 1970. And grain production is the lowest in the world at 1.7 tons
per hectare - less than half the global average of 4 tons per hectare.
Biotech's Relevance to Africa's Needs
Given the enormous infrastructural and environmental challenges for
agriculture in Africa, biotechnology can be an extremely beneficial tool
for farmers there because the technology is delivered directly through the
seed. Biotech crops don't require additional inputs to make the technology
work, like expensive farm equipment or extensive training.
Pests: The first generation of biotech products was developed to help
farmers to control insect, virus and weed pests. This application of
biotech has proven its relevance to agriculture in all world areas,
including Africa. The results have been striking in boosting productivity,
and are now being well documented by third-party studies. And there is
much more that can be done to solve other insect and viral diseases, to
solve fungal and bacterial infections, to solve nematode and parasitic
Depleted Soils: Biotech solutions for adding nitrogen to starved soils may
not occur during my career, but improving nitrogen use efficiency is
possible and may help modest levels of fertilizers produce a bigger
harvest. And in an indirect, but very real way, reducing pest damage helps
to get more food from whatever nutrients are available to the crop. The
biggest need for depleted soils is fertilizer (either inorganic or
organic), but biotech can help make its use more efficient.
Drought: In a similar way, biotech can not substitute for rainfall,
irrigation or good water management practices, but it can help improve
water use efficiency by reducing yield loss from drought stress and by
increasing yield potential in water limited environments. . I have seen
tremendously exciting, although preliminary, results in greenhouses tests
of new genes designed to protect against the damage of drought stress. We
typically measure yield per acre of land. In the future, we may come to
measure yield per gallon of water. Here too, yield lost to pests is a
waste of water as well as a waste of soil nutrients and labor.
Nutrition: Nutritional enhancements like the higher beta carotene (vitamin
A precursor) in golden rice are being expanded to include golden mustard
oil and other golden staples. Beyond that, promising research on
increasing iron availability and other vitamins, minerals and proteins can
provide much needed enriched food on the farm where grocery store access
to enriched processed foods or multi-vitamins is neither possible nor
Many people in Africa don't even have enough basic calories to lead a
healthy and active life. Increases in productivity and yield are needed to
boost total food production. And because of the AIDS epidemic in Africa,
in some regions of the country human labor is the limiting factor in how
much food can be grown - and lack of good nutrition can be a hindrance to
avoiding infections or respond well to medical treatment.
Poverty: Similarly, biotechnology can't solve poverty in a direct way, but
it can increase ag productivity in ways that help resource poor farmers to
become more economically successful. And because it is information
technology, not resource and energy intensive material technology, it can
be shared without being consumed.
Biotechnology can't create markets and infrastructure of course, but
because it is built into the seed, it holds promise to bypass this
critical lack and help jump-start nutritional and economic successes that
could then help markets to develop.
A Success Story in Makhathini Flats, South Africa - Insect-Protected
Cotton Where developing countries have reviewed and approved biotech crops
for planting, farmers have benefited dramatically. South Africa has
approved four GM crops for commercial release: insect tolerant cotton
(approved 1997); insect tolerant maize (approved 1998); herbicide tolerant
cotton (approved 2000) and herbicide tolerant soybeans (approved 2001).
The total area under GM crops in the 2001/2002 summer season was estimated
at almost 200,000 hectares.
Since their approval in South Africa, farmers have eagerly adopted biotech
crops, which provide better yields, more convenience, improved personal
safety and environmental advantages.
For example, Monsanto's insect-protected cotton has been a particular
advantage to growers in the Makhathini Flats region of South Africa, one
of the poorer regions of the world, where bollworms traditionally have
destroyed up to 60 percent of growers' harvests. Insect-protected cotton,
enhanced through biotechnology to repel bollworms, significantly reduces
pesticide use and increases yields.
Average yields for biotech cotton in South Africa from 1998 and 2001 were
25 percent higher than for conventional varieties, according to one study.
Another study of the 1999-2000 growing season said average yields were 93
percent higher than for conventional varieties - with an average earnings
increase of 77 percent.
Any yield increase can make a significant difference in an area where half
the people survive on less than $1 per day, and three-quarters on less
than $2 per day. According to a 2001 study by the United Kingdom's
Department for International Development, even a 1 percent increase in
overall yields would help raise the incomes of 6 million people above $1
"In low-income developing countries, agriculture is the driving force for
broad-based economic growth and poverty alleviation," wrote Per
Pinstrup-Andersen and Marc Cohen of the International Food Policy Research
Institute, in an article titled "Modern Biotechnology for Food and
Agriculture: Risks and Opportunities for the Poor."
That's particularly significant given that 70 percent of the African
population relies on agriculture for their sole source of income. T.J.
Buthelezi one of the first farmers to plant biotech cotton in South
Africa, says higher yields from biotech cotton have helped him invest for
the future in more land and better equipment. T.J. recently told me, "For
the first time I'm making money. I can pay my debts." The successful
adoption of biotech cotton clearly shows the power and relevance of
biotechnology for Africa.
Recommendations to Address Challenges and Take Advantage of Opportunities
in Africa In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I would like to make the following
recommendations, which I believe will serve to augment plant biotechnology
research and development in Africa, and help ensure that African farmers
have access to the most modern agricultural tools possible.
First, we must continue to strengthen investment in basic science and
education in the United States, such as is supported by the National
Science Foundation and conducted at U.S. universities and research
centers. It is hard to prove looking forward, but abundantly clear in
hindsight, that breakthroughs in basic research today will provide
technologies and benefits for the future that we can scarcely imagine.
Investment in education and the development of our country's human
capacity has never failed to return benefits exceeding expectations.
We must continue to strengthen support for innovati