Part 2: Issues in Sustainable Development



Biotechnology refers to a host of new technologies associated with manipulating genes. Genetically modified (GM) crops and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in general, produced by biotechnology, have both potential benefits and problems for the food security and the environment of Africa.

Main Idea

Understand and use biotechnology wisely

Key Concepts

      • Science of biotechnology
      • Potential benefits and potential risks of genetically engineered products
      • Potential to improve food security
      • Public policy related to GM crops and GMOs


Knowledge of

      • GMOs currently available
      • GMOs potentially relevant to Africa
      • potential benefits and potential drawbacks of genetically engineered products
      • natural methods for increasing crop yield

Understanding of

      • the two main types of biotechnological processes
      • the food security, intellectual property rights, health, and environmental safety concerns of GMOs

Ability to

      • explain examples of natural and genetically modified methods for increasing crop yield

Core Readings

  1. Biotechnology Factsheet
    Clear, brief review of the major concerns with biotechnology (2 pages)
  2. Africa Environment Outlook 2, Chapter 9: Genetically Modified Crops, pages 300-301 and 309-316
    Concerns and promise regarding GM in Africa, including relevance to food security, intellectual property rights, health and environmental safety concerns (10 pages)

Sustainability Strategies

  1. A Remedy Against Moths and Genetic Engineering
    A natural method of cultivation that achieves better yields for the farmers
    (4 pages)
  2. Taking on Biotechnology the African Way
    The potential for genetically modified corn and cotton to raise incomes and reduce the health risks of pesticide use by small farmers (3 pages)
  3. Seeds of Capacity Building in Africa's Agriculture
    Preserving seeds and boosting research into improved crop varieties
    (5 pages)

Supplemental Readings

  1. Biotechnology for the Poor
    While biotechnology holds promise for improving agriculture in developing countries, research is not focused in this direction (3 pages)
  2. Biosafety Treaty
    Information on concerns regarding safety of modified organisms, including health concerns and fear of invasive species; defines precautionary principle (4 pages)
  3. Debate, pages 3-27
    Summary of main concerns with GM foods, arranged relative to human right to adequate food Pages (25 pages)
  4. Promise of Agricultural Biotechnology
    Detailed description with examples of the kinds of agricultural advances that are possible with biotechnology (23 pages)
  5. Ethics, pages 12-19
    Experts’ panel list of concerns with GM foods, includes Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (8 pages)
  6. International Trade in GMOs
    Signing of the Cartegena Protocol on biosafety, which allows countries to regulate import of GMOs (2 pages)
  7. 20 Questions about GM Foods
    Basics of GM technology and control regimes (8 pages)
  8. Africa Environment Outlook 2, Chapter 9: Genetically Modified Crops, pages 301-308 and 316-328
    Biotechnology research in Africa and overview of policy responses in African countries (20 pages)
  9. Public Involvement in GMO Decision Making
    Summary of controversies associated with biotechnology and call for greater public involvement in decision making at every stage (14 pages)

Assignment Questions

  1. Biotechnology: What is bioengineering? How does the process differ from traditional agricultural research?
  2. Interconnections: Biotechnology & Agriculture: Evaluate the potential of GM crops to increase food security on the African continent.
  3. Interconnections: Biotechnology & Biodiversity: Summarize the debate on the environmental impacts that may be associated with GM crops.