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National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Abuja, Nigeria
With African rising population and considering its commensurate demand for more food; deficiencies of vital dietary nutrients and vulnerability to the negative impacts of climate change, the continent’s full application of genetic diversity and modern biotechnology to mitigate against these impediments remains consequential. This review explains the current standpoint of Africa towards leveraging the genetic diversity, and application of modern biotechnology in agriculture and the effectiveness of biosafety regulation towards crop improvement and food security in the continent. Genetic diversity is the pillar of biodiversity and diversity within species, between species and of ecosystem aimed to serve as a cushion for the adaptation and resilience of plants in the face of environmental challenge. Therefore genomic projects for conserving plant genetic resources (PGR) in most of the stable food crops in Africa will be vital for crop improvement and food production and will provide tools for population monitoring and assessment that can be used for conservation planning and genetic engineering (Agro-Modern Biotechnology). The transfer of a desirable gene from one species to another has proved to be a way of agro revival and economic growth which benefits both the farmers and consumers in terms of yield and improved nutrition respectively. Genetically engineered (GE) maize grown in 2015 by just three countries generated US$ 8.1 billion and over 7000 peer reviewed studies has shown that GE crops has lower concentrations of toxins that are likely carcinogenic in human and animals and there was no significant differences in grain quality such as fiber, lipids and proteins when compared with non-GE plants. Despite all these benefits of agro-modern biotechnology, there are still ill-fated public perceptions of the technology centralized towards environmental, health and socio-economic concerns. However, biosafety regulation that involves the legal and technical efforts and thorough scientific evidence to eliminate the potential risks that may result from modern biotechnology, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and products thereof which addresses the public concerns is the assurance of the safety. Africa should develop a thoughtful agenda for an effective germplasm for agro-modern biotechnology together with an efficient biosafety system that will meet human increasing demands and improve existing conditions prevalent in our environment.