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Moving past transgenics – the potential for genomics to open markets in the EU for African agricultural products

William Kerr

Agrekon, 2019, vol. 58, issue 4, 472-484

Abstract: In 1999 the European Union imposed a moratorium on imports of agricultural products produced using biotechnology based on transgenics. In 2003 the moratorium was replaced by a strict, costly and politicised regime for regulatory approval which is impossible for African exporters to satisfy. Further, co-mingling of unapproved GMOs with conventional crops has meant refusal of shipments. The EU NTBs have also inhibited a productivity enhancing technology as African countries feared loss of markets given their inability to segregate GMOs. Further, absence of GMO use has meant little investment in GMO-based tropical crops. Biological science is not static and the declining cost of genomic information combined with low cost gene editing technologies means that gains in productivity can be obtained without transgenics. Genomics uses improved information on the genetic make-up of a plant to enhance its performance using its existing genetic material. Thus, the speculative risks associated with transgenics should not arise for genomics. The falling cost of genomic information and implementing technologies, may create opportunities for African-based developers of genomic-based crops. This paper explores the potential of a relatively open regulatory regime for genomic-based crops from Africa entering the EU including the potential for African adoption and plant breeding.

Date: 2019
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DOI: 10.1080/03031853.2019.1605299

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