Monsanto chief on why GMOs still best bet in war on hunger

Alex Whitebrook/ March 1, 2018/ News/ 0 comments

Monsanto, the US-based agriculture and chemical giant, has been advocating the adoption of biotechnology to sustain agricultural productivity in the face of declining output partly due to climate change.

Kenya remains a reluctant player when it comes to adoption of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and has since 2015 only allowed controlled approved field trials.

The Business Daily spoke to Monsanto’s vice president for global commercial and supply chain Jesus Madrazo, who was in Nairobi, on the state of agriculture and how technology can be used to boost output and support food security while taking care of emerging environmental and health concerns.

What brings you to Kenya?

Three years ago, Monsanto made a very deliberate decision to focus on building our business in sub-Saharan Africa. As part of that decision, we relocated our headquarters from South Africa to Nairobi.

We have a leadership team for African region here — from where we are trying to build a foundation for agriculture in Africa. That’s why we are placing a lot of emphasis in this part of the world.

Food insecurity has become a major challenge to Kenya where climate change has become a reality.

How is Monsanto relevant to this emerging dispensation?

There is no one single solution that addresses the whole challenge. It is a multiple dimensional challenge that requires collaboration from companies like Monsanto, government and other partners.

One thing that can make a big impact on this matter is technology. If you bring one high yielding resilient seed and put it in hands of the farmers they will know what to do with it. When they plant it and get better harvest, they become part of the solution to food insecurity.

There is tremendous opportunity of doubling productivity by enabling farmers’ to access biotechnology in sub-Saharan Africa.

Technology is a great piece of the answer to food security. But for technology to reach the farmer, there is a need for enabling policies that allow companies to develop technology that is tailored for realties of the African farmers and put that technology in their hands.

Is GMO crop the solution to weather challenges and is Kenya losing out on or failing to harness this opportunity due to policy constraints?

A number of countries have formulated new policies to allow use of biotechnology in agriculture and that has created an opportunity to transform their farming. Think about US, Canada and South Africa. These countries are now net exporters of food.

We know technology works and if farmers have access to it, they will improve their productivity and profitability of agriculture as an economic activity. This in turn helps lift growers, especially the millions of small scale-farmers in rural areas out of poverty.

But a good point to start with is giving them (farmers) the opportunity to choose whatever technology they think is good for their environment. Unfortunately, when policymakers fail to pay attention to the farmer realities, problems facing producers cannot be solved.

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