The media and writers are critical to achieving the global ambition of feeding the world by 2050 and restoring a million hectares of land, says an international journalist.
Greater investments in agricultural biotechnology and food nutrition are also key to meeting that goal, said Markus Rediger, managing director of the LID Agricultural Information Center and former president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ).
“We must unify and take action today for the future of agriculture and our planet,” he said. “With the challenges the world is facing in relation to achieving global food security and the exponential growth in population, GM technology will gradually become the order of the day and therefore there is the need for us to invest in developing capacity for GMOs.”
GMOs may not be the only solution to feeding the world, Rediger told the recent Alltech ONE Conference, “but it is the best option the world has got now.”
Agriculture is integral to ensuring sufficient nutritious food for all and enabling local economies and communities to thrive, he said.
Unlocking Africa’s agricultural potential will create jobs as well as provide enough food for the domestic supply, Rediger said. The need to improve the continent’s agricultural output is particularly urgent given the US$35 billion that Africa spends annually on imported food, he said.
Steve Werblow, a freelance agricultural writer and IFAJ vice president, also believes that increased investment into biotechnology is a sure way to boost agricultural production in Africa.
He expressed worries about how climate change is negatively impacting agricultural production at a time when land areas for farming activities are being drastically reduced.
“It’s time to connect writers and communicators with farmers, so they can expose them to newly introduced innovations and technologies,” Werblow said.
Africa has the potential to feed itself and export more food to the global market, but that capacity is stymied by the lack of agricultural infrastructure and failure to adopt new innovations, he said. Anti-GMO campaigns put fear into people and undermine food security efforts.
“Why should we sit and watch some anti-technology civil society groups thwart the efforts by scientists to help improve agriculture through innovation?” Werblow asked.
Researchers say that Africa stands to make extraordinary gains when the technology eventually gets into the hands of ordinary farmers, which is why it’s needed on the continent. Climate change, pest attacks and low crop yield are some of the key problems that biotechnology could help address in Africa.
“For us, genetically improved seeds serve as one of the most effective approaches to deal with these challenges,” Werblow said. “Special traits that we could not achieve through conventional breeding are being made possible through GMO technology and gene editing techniques.”
Image: A South Africa news crew conducts an interview. Photo: Wirestock Creators