A key challenge is to attract funding for biotechnology projects on staple crops, such as cassava, it added.
These crops were often ignored by commercial funders because they had a limited market, the authors suggested.
Africa missed out on the previous green revolution that boosted food output in many Asian and Latin American nations.
The report, On Trial: GM Crops in Africa published by think tank Chatham House, said: “Increasing agricultural productivity and adapting farming to climate change are central to Africa’s development prospects.”
It added that there were opportunities to boost yields and increase resilience by improving existing crop varieties, and that “in some cases, biotechnology, and in particular genetic modification (GM), offers advantages over conventional plant-breeding approaches,” such as drought, pest and disease resistance.
However, the continent was in danger of missing out on capitalizing on innovations offered by the 21st century green revolution, just as it had done in the previous century.
“If you look at what happened in Latin America and Asia in the second half of the 20th century with the Green Revolution, there was a range of technologies, new high-yielding hybrid varieties of wheat, rice and maize, new irrigation platforms, etc,” explained co-author Rob Bailey, research director for energy, environment and resources at Chatham House.
He added that this acted as a “growth spurt for development” because it delivered a big increase in yields and agricultural productivity allowing food prices to fall, increased food security and a diversification in economic activity in other sectors.
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