Farmers have to consider risks when adopting genetically modified (GM) crops.
Photo: ISAAA

African farmers to gain economic benefits from biotechnology

In collaboration with local economists, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has analysed the expected economic benefits to farmers and consumers resulting from the adoption of GM crops in five sub-Saharan African countries.

An enabling, evidence-based decision-making framework is critical to support agricultural biotechnology innovation, and to ensure farmers’ access to genetically modified (GM) crops, including orphan crop varieties. One key element, and often a challenge in the decision-making process, involves the balancing of identified potential risks with expected economic benefits from GM crops.

The International Food Policy Research Institute and economists from Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda, and Ghana recently analysed the expected economic benefits from the adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops in five sub-Saharan African countries. The results of their study show that substantial economic benefits are gained by both farmers and consumers from the timely adoption and planting in farmers' fields of GM crops through an efficient regulatory system.

The importance of a competent and efficient biosafety regulatory system

The research paper published by Frontiers in Plant Science focused on case studies of the insect-resistant cowpea in Nigeria and Ghana, the disease-resistant cassava in Uganda and Tanzania, and the disease-resistant banana in Uganda. The results of the study highlighted the following:

  • Participatory economic and social assessments are valuable to decision making because decision makers need to consider which socio-economic issues and assessments should be included in a regulatory process.
  • Delays caused by the Research&Development (R&D) process and regulatory reviews significantly reduce the anticipated benefits. Policy-makers and decision-makers are encouraged to invest in policies and programmes to improve these factors and foster the availability of GM crops to farmers and consumers.
  • Decision-makers need to consider investing in effective extension practices and seed systems.
  • Value chains, seed systems and market intelligent analysis are recommended prerequisites for the deployment of GM-based crop improvement.

The results underline the importance of a competent and efficient biosafety regulatory system being in place to guarantee that improved varieties reach farmers on time for beneficiaries to reap the intended economic benefits. Delays caused by R&D and regulatory compliance issues significantly reduce the rates of return.

The ISAAA analysis concludes that having an evidence-based, efficient, predictable and transparent regulatory system can potentially lead to farmers gaining timely access to safe and valuable GM crops.



Patricia Zambrano et al.: Opportunities for Orphan Crops: Expected Economic Benefits From Biotechnology, Frontiers in Plant Science, 23 June 2022.


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