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Experts offer insight on cons, pros of GMO

SOME agricultural experts have shared clues on the dark and bright side of the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) in agriculture, where local researchers are still striving to establish effectiveness of such biotechnology in the country.

For some years now there has been a heated debate among the stakeholders on whether the country should adopt the GMO or otherwise.

At a forum in Dar es Salaam over the weekend, some scholars presented different arguments to inform the public of the advantages of the technology and whether to accept it or not.

Assistant lecturer from the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NMAIST), Mr Mashamba Phillipo, argued that a plant genetically engineered is very useful and a good method to improve crops’ yields.

However, he warned that before applying it, it is important to make good selection on the type to use on a specific crop and train local experts in plant engineering.

Reached for a comment, Tanzania Coordinator of Biotechnology Research from Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI), Dr Fred Tairo, said that GMO would help increase food security, while citing rapid growth of population in the world to be fed.

Dr Tairo further argued that the technology would offer solution(s) to challenges being experienced as a result of decline of water resources and arable land as well as climate change.

Currently, the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) undertakes research on engineering resistance against cassava virus diseases and mitigates drought and insect pests’ stresses.

“Preliminary results on transformation system for engineering resistance to virus disease showed promising results,” he said.

He remarked that the biotechnology can make significant contribution to food and nutrition security, livelihood improvement, climate change mitigation and environment protection.

“There is a need for Tanzania to continue strengthening capacity in GMO research both in human resources and infrastructure,” he advised.

Mr Abdallah Ramadhani, senior official with the Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity (TABIO), advocated for traditional seeds, however, argued that welcoming the GMO would replace the traditional seeds and the agricultural sector that is dominated by multinationals.

In another development, Lecturer at the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Dr Dominico Kilemo, said potential consequences of introducing GMOs to the country would make the technology to eliminate traditional seeds and make smallholder farmer’s dependent on seed companies.

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