As development donors invest hundreds of millions of dollars into improved crops designed to alleviate poverty and hunger, Africa has emerged as the final frontier in the global debate over agricultural biotechnology.
The first data-driven assessment of the ecological, social, and political factors that shape our understanding of genetic modification, Africa's Gene Revolution surveys twenty years of efforts to use genomics-based breeding to enhance yields and livelihoods for African farmers. Matthew Schnurr considers the full range of biotechnologies currently in commercial use and those in development – including hybrids, marker-assisted breeding, tissue culture, and genetic engineering. Drawing on interviews with biotechnology experts alongside research conducted with more than two hundred farmers across eastern, western, and southern Africa, Schnurr reveals a profound incongruity between the optimistic rhetoric that accompanies genetic modification technology and the realities of the smallholder farmers who are its intended beneficiaries. Through the lens of political ecology, this book demonstrates that the current emphasis on improved seeds discounts the geographic, social, ecological, and economic contexts in which the producers of these crops operate.
Bringing the voices of farmers to the foreground of this polarizing debate, Africa's Gene Revolution contends that meaningful change will come from a reconfiguration not only of the plant's genome, but of the entire agricultural system.
Acknowledgments / vii
Abbreviations / ix
Introduction: A Political Ecology of Africa’s Gene Revolution / 3
SECTION ONE: The Promotion, Science, and Regulation of GM Crops
1 Talking Technology: Plant Breeding for Agricultural Development / 27
2 Rules and Regulations: Governing GM Crops in Africa / 40
SECTION TWO: GMO 1.0: First-Generation GM Crops Targeting Insect Resistance and Herbicide Tolerance in Commodity Crops
3 GM Cotton in South Africa, Burkina Faso, Sudan, and Uganda / 69
4 GM Maize in South Africa and Egypt / 109
SECTION THREE: GMO 2.0: Second-Generation GM Crops Targeting Traits and Crops that Matter to Poor Farmers
5 Two Crucial Precedents: Virus-Resistant Sweet Potato and Insect-Resistant Maize in Kenya / 137
6 Water Efficient Maize for Africa in Kenya / 153
7 GM Banana in Uganda / 172
Conclusion / 194
Notes / 215
Bibliography / 255
Index / 307
Matthew A. Schnurr is associate professor in the Department of International Development Studies at Dalhousie University.
"Matthew Schnur interrogates the evidence and assumptions that underpin GM research and development in the continent, unpacks the politics and power behind it, and evaluates the benefits and contextual appropriateness of a variety of GMOs."
– Stephen Whitfield, University of Leeds
"Africa's Gene Revolution presents a balanced analysis of the GMO debate in countries across the continent. It draws on an impressive diversity of case studies to highlight the nuanced challenges of GM crops in Africa, paying particular attention to the social, political, and economic conditions surrounding technological change in African agriculture."
– Noah Zerbe, Humboldt State University