The role of genetic engineering in agriculture and food has generated enormous interest and controversies, with a large-scale embrace by some nations and wholesale bans by others. Many studies have been done and much research remains to be done on the impact genetically modified organisms (GMO) can have on broader food systems.
Fast-moving developments, however, suggest that lines drawn in the sand both for or against the broader use of GMOs risk becoming a distraction, particularly in Africa.
The major novelty is the emergence of CRISPR, which stands for "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats" and is popularly called "genome editing", which amounts to a much faster way to alter genomes. The method sharply lowers costs and amounts to a revolution for seeds.
The second development springs from the first: genetic engineering can now be deployed on a far vaster array of organisms and with more bespoke goals such as drought resistance or nutritional enhancement. Many GMOs in the market are for insect and/or herbicide resistance, as has been the case for many biotechnology products of the past.