The African Union (AU) is developing guidelines for genetically modified (GM) crops to encourage increased adoption in the region, Bio Market Insights reported on 7 September.

Currently, only seven countries in Africa – Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan – have approved the commercial production of GM crops, according to the report.

While many opposed the development of novel crop strains, the push for a shift in perception was gaining momentum, the report said, boosted by the recent success of projects in places such as Nigeria.

In the AU’s draft report on GM crop commercialisation, Peace Mutuwa from the group’s agriculture and rural development unit said new regulations would be used to protect consumers and countries from “unwitting consumption” of GM products.

“The food, feed and environmental safety controversy surrounding genetic engineering technology in particular makes continental guidelines extremely significant,” she said.

It was hoped that under the new guidelines, seed regulations could be homogenised to help countries achieve food security and improve crop yields, Bio Market Insights wrote.

However, GM crops have consistently faced opposition from activists, which has held back their widespread adoption, according to the report.

In a Reuters report on 31 August, Frances Davies of the Zambian Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity was quoted as saying that the introduction of cultivated crops would trap farmers in the region in a cycle of debt as they would struggle to source novel seed varieties.

The AU did not provide a timeline for publication of the guidelines, according to the Reuters report, but some activists said that the plans were being finalised and could be sent to an AU summit in October for possible adoption.