Experts from five project piloting AU member states have said that most African nations have shown readiness for the adoption of Genome Editing (GEd) technology.
The AU member states came together to strategise on the use and adoption of genome editing technology in boosting agricultural productivity.
The experts made their statement in their communiqué released following a three-day genome editing communication strategy development and policy dialogue meeting held in Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria last week.
The meeting was organized by the Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology, and Innovation of the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) in collaboration with the Nigerian National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA).
Participants expressed optimism that some projects in the pipeline in the countries may be ready for commercialisation within the next three to five years.
According to the communiqué, there are growing GEd capabilities in Africa as identified at the forum and most countries involved in the pilot phase as well as other African countries have some level of enabling environment to adopt the technology.
Moreover, the experts agreed that there is a need for accelerated development of experts on genome editing and mainstreaming in the curriculum of various universities in Africa.
They added that there is need for synergy and collaboration among African countries to foster the desired benefits from genome editing adding that such a move will spur industrial development and improved livelihoods.
They also underscored the need for Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) and improved funding made available by the private sector, adding that AU member countries need to proactively develop guidelines to facilitate the adoption of the technology and to develop communication strategy for awareness creation and public education.
In connection with the continental meeting, Press Secretary to the Director-General of Nigerian National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) Mrs Toyin Omozuma, indicated the AUDA-NEPAD project has been initiated and driven by member states of Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ethiopia, Eswantini and Zambia.
“The goal of the Genome Editing (GEd) project is to foster a broader understanding of GEd among different stakeholder groups through communication and advocacy for enhanced uptake of the tool to optimise agriculture in Africa,” she said.
Scientists say that genome-editing technologies including clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated protein (CRISPR/Cas) have become powerful tools for modifying plant genomes and achieve precise genetic modifications by inducing targeted DNA double-strand breaks.
This article first appeared in E-Review Magazine, a publication of the African Seed Trade Association, December 2022 edition.