sihlobo2_Jonas GratzerLightRocket via Getty Images_gmocorn Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

A New Chance for Genetically Engineered Crops

German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner has welcomed the possibility of looser restrictions on genetically engineered crops as an "overdue modernization" of EU policy. She is right – and it is not only Europe that needs to rethink its approach.

PRETORIA – The European Union is reviewing its rules on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), with an eye to loosening restrictions on genetically engineered (GE) crops. It is a welcome move, and African countries should consider emulating it.

There are fewer controversial topics in global agriculture. Many worry that GE crops have adverse environmental and health effects, and that they risk undermining food sovereignty, as the handful of corporations making the seeds can gain undue power over global agricultural output – and the farmers who produce it. It is because of these fears that the EU and most African countries currently restrict the cultivation of GE crops.

And yet, many countries – including Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the United States, Uruguay, Paraguay, and my country, South Africa – have embraced GE crops. These countries generally subscribe to the view that gene editing in crops is safe, because it mostly just accelerates natural processes.

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