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Experts Debate Biotechnology to Boost Agricultural Production in West Africa

Experts from the Economic Community of West African States meeting in Ghana are discussing ways to use modern biotechnology to enhance agriculture production in the sub-region.

Millions of West Africans suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition. Experts believe biotechnology can help the sub-region feed its population.

But biotechnology is controversial. Advocates of its use say there is "widespread misinformation" about the safety of the technology.

Over three days, delegates will be discussing plans for the development of biotechnology within the ECOWAS sub-region, as well as safety issues.

Dr. Harold Roy-Macauley of the World Agroforestry Center is co-author of the action plan for the development of biotechnology and bio-safety in the ECOWAS sub-region.

He explains why Africa has been slow to adopt modern biotechnology.

"Like all new technology, they come with risk, and, therefore, in most of the African countries, there are resistance to the use of this technology, just because people think that it is a technology that results in products that could be harmful to humans and animals," he explained.

He says it is time Africa embraced the technology to help the region move forward in the agriculture sector.

"In Africa, the general trend is that we do not have enough food, and we have to ensure food security," he added. "And we are saying that biotechnology, this technology, could be used. It is not a panacea, but it contributes to improving food security. It could contribute to improving productivity."

Some say the technology will reduce the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and drugs in food production, thus leading to more sustainable agricultural practices.

The three-day conference will conclude with a ministerial meeting Friday to adopt the region's action plan on biotechnology and bio-safety.