GMO tech could be cure for food insecurity


THE Fifth Phase Government under President Magufuli is determined to turn Tanzania into an industrial country by adopting modern technology that will help farmers increase food production.

The use of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) technology is among strategies to make the country an industrialised nation.

In order to achieve the goal, Tanzanians should join hands in efforts to ensure that the technology is approved to by farmers despite opposi tion forces to GMO tech.

The United States is among the top five countries planting biotech crops. It continues to be the lead country with 70.9 million hectares.

The US government approved GM animal food products for human consumption for the first time in 2015. It is true that the US is among countries in the world where people benefit from agriculture using biotech technology.

An exhaustive new study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops.

No conclusive causal evidence of environmental problems tied to genetically modified crops.

The reality is that today’s GE products are the most researched and tested agricultural products in history and this report builds on a large and growing body of evidence that supports the safety of GMOs.

A team of experts visited trial fields of maize using GMO technology under Water Efficient for Maize Project (WEMA) at Makutupora in Dodoma Region.

The technology is very important as it addresses various challenges experienced in the agricultural sector. Farmers who planted the WEMA seeds have received 50 to 80 per cent crops, especially in this year’s drought, a researcher said.

The WEMA project is in the second phase of trials and it is expected to pass in five phases before being approved for use by Tanzanian farmers. The effects of GMO were not known to Tanzanian farmers and what is being done is to trials and the ongoing research.

For 20 years, the government was unable to make a decision on the use of GMO crop technology. “It had reached a point that we were told ban…ban everything even research activities due to lack of enough knowledge on the use of GMO tech in agricultural sector in the country,” says an expert.

“Through education and efforts done by researchers in collaboration with various stakeholders, the technology has won support from the government,” he adds.

The WEMA project also improves food security and rural livelihoods among small-scale maize producers by developing drought resistant crops.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock, Dr Charles Tizeba, visited the Makutupora field trials centre to see the importance of GMO crops technology.

He said that Tanzania has delayed to use the technology, especially at this time when the country is on the road to industrilisation. “We want to see GMO technology is implemented in our country.

The government plans to discuss with various stakeholders how to amend the rules and procedures to adoption of GMO technology,” he said.

He urged people opposing GMO tech to come up with evidence of its harmful effects instead of speaking without any proof. “Tanzanians should support efforts done by researchers on the implementation of GMO crop technology,” he explained.

The use of GM crop tech nology, he elaborated, will bring changes in the agricultural sector instead of opposing without any evidence of its harmful effects.

The National Agriculture Policy acknowledges that increased use of modern inputs such as fertilisers, agrochemicals, seeds and farm machinery is prerequisite for achieving sufficient agricultural production and economic growth.

The experience of the first 20 years of commercialisation has confirmed that the early promise of crop biotechnology has been fulfilled. Biotech crops have delivered substantial agronomic, environmental, economic, health and social benefits to farmers.

The rapid adoption of biotech crops during the initial 20 years of commercialisation, reflects substantial multiple benefits realised by both large and small farmers in industrialised and developing countries which have grown biotech crops commercially.

The global hectare of biotech crops has increased 100fold from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 179.7 million hectares in 2015, up to 17 to 18 million farmers.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2014 report, GM foods could help improve food security through better protection from pests and drought, produce vaccines and increase nutrient level of foods.

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