Deadly 'armyworm' could march on Britain after devastating African crops, warn experts

Instead, Africa will have to learn to cope with it, something that will not happen, some agricultural experts say, unless African farmers can increase the productivity of their fields, something that could be best achieved by planting genetically modified crop strains resistant to Fall armyworm.

But all sub-Saharan African states, with the exception of South Africa, presently ban the planting of transgenic crops after a highly effective pressure campaign from European lobby groups opposed to genetic crop engineering.

“Africa needs the political will to embrace the technologies with the greatest potential to achieve agricultural transformation,” said Sylvester Oikeh, a project manager at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation. 

Despite controlled trials showing that genetically modified maize planted in Africa produce a 52 per cent higher yield than organic strains, most governments are still reluctant to lift the bans, he said.

Experts warn that, unless African governments begin to appreciate the urgency of the situation, ever greater swathes of the continent’s staple crops, like maize, risk being lost  — threatening the livelihoods and perhaps even the lives of its poorest people.

“When maize is threatened this country’s food security is threatened,” said Paul Ngaruiya, lead analyst at Kenya’s Pest Control Products Board, a quasi-governmental agency. “When there is no maize, there is no food.”

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