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A promise or a threat? : a theological critique of genetic engineering and biotechnology with particular reference to food security and sovereignty in Africa.

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Today, Africa has more countries with food security problems than any other region on the globe. Two-thirds of all countries suffering food insecurity are in Africa. Present trends would mean that the number of chronically undernourished people in the Southern region of Africa would rise from 180 to 300 million by the year 2010. In this research, I note that in the face of this food or hunger crisis, particularly in Africa, some have argued that genetic engineering biotechnology promises to combat food insecurity. Opponents of the technology argue that, to the contrary, genetic engineering biotechnology undermines food security, food sovereignty and livelihoods on the continent. The technology is designed to block access to food and kill agricultural biodiversity, vest excessive, monopolistic and exclusive power in the hands of a few biotechnologists and giant multinational corporations, and ultimately, create hunger and poverty in Africa and other developing countries by undermining organic and conventional means of farming. The thesis offers a critical theological assessment of the structural, ecological and socioeconomic effects of genetic engineering and biotechnology on agriculture, food production, food security and sovereignty in Africa against some core theological principles. The study, therefore, brings a careful critique to the growing area of science in its relationship to the current issues of food security and sovereignty. The theological framework provides a moral framework for analysis that can be applied in the debate about genetic engineering and biotechnology. In this thesis, I will consistently demonstrate that opponents of the GE technology think that proponents of r-DNA technology are mostly driven by the intent to generate and maximize profits rather than a concern for the common well being, and the intent to control all the stages of agricultural production. The corporate control over essential agricultural resources such as seeds and food entails that multinational companies have control over fundamental human rights of access to healthy, safe and adequate food, nutrition, and ultimately to social and economic development itself. This, then, becomes an issue of justice and hence the concern of the churches and theologians. In this light, then, the study argues that issues of food security and sovereignty cannot be meaningfully and credibly pursued without taking adequate recognition of moral, ethical and theological insights. Such framework would guide scientific and GE technological activities.


Thesis (M.Th.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2002.


Theses--Theology., Genetic engineering--Religious aspects--Christianity., Genetically modified foods--Religious aspects--Christianity., Biotechnology--Religious aspects--Christianity., Biotechnology--Economic aspects--Africa.