A few weeks ago, Rachel Schurman and I published The Complex Choreography of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Africa in the journal African Affairs. In the article, we surveyed nearly 30 years of strategic and well-funded efforts by donors to bring GMOs to Africa. These efforts, we contend, have so far yielded very little. How come?
We argue that a complex choreography of socio- political, regulatory, and business conditions is required for agricultural biotechnology projects to ‘succeed’ in Africa. Using case studies from Burkina Faso, South Africa and Ghana, we explain how and why these conditions rarely occur. However, while few GMOs have successfully passed from pipeline to field, we argue GMO proponents have successfully ushered in significant reconfigurations of political, legal, and media landscapes in many African countries. We suggest these reconfigurations are in need of more scholarly attention, which we attempt to provide in our article.
In a shorter essay we published in Africa is a Country, we also directly responded to recent arguments that suggest GMOs might help African countries become more self-sufficient in food production. While this is a goal we share, our research so far suggests that GMOs actually make African scientists, farmers and plant breeders more reliant on global value chains.
We published the essay in Africa is a Country concurrently with African Affairs with an eye on making our findings more publicly accessible. In the same vein, we were lucky to include a visualization of our findings, which I’ve included below. These graphics were designed to show the complex array of actors and policy involved in GMO research and design in Ghana.
The graphics were created by Cristina Villegas, a brilliant designer I met at NYU, and whom I highly recommend for those looking to share their findings in new and creative ways.
Thanks to those who have shared our article and sent feedback. If you’d like access to the piece, please be in touch.
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