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COSTECH sets forth educating on biotechnology

COSTECH sets forth educating on biotechnology

“Agriculture involves research and expertise, it is the soil or seeds, it is science and technology, it is fertilizers, it involves water, whether rainfall or irrigation, it is harvesting infrastructure, it is fertility, storage and it involves the market, so if you miss one of these aspects, you remove value in farming,”.

These are words of Special Seats Member of Parliament, Mariam Ditopile.

The MP said these words when she was contributing to budget estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture for the 2022/2023 financial year in Dodoma.

During discussions, Mariam further said “we should not abandon science and technology, we should go like the rest of the world. Why do we refuse to accept GMO seeds? We cultivate cotton because we want to produce garments, but in Brazil, India and China use that technology, farmers should decide whether we want to adapt to this technology or not, you say that they are harmful, but that is a pack of lies,”

During the debate, Bahi Member of Parliament (CCM), Kenneth Nollo said the issue of GMO is not the same way the way the Special Seats MP perceives it, because it is feeding on dangerous foods that can kill you.

Nollo was quoted saying “It is not only poison; it is like consuming death itself while you are watching. The issue of GMO is surrounded in mystery and should not be discussed in our country,”

While the debate was still going on, Tanzania Commission for Science and Technolgy (COSTECH), the Ministry of Agriculture, Office of the Vice President (Union and Environment) have the responsibility of educating the community on different types of technology, including GMO so that people can have an understanding of what is involved instead of using guess work in their discussions.

There is no doubt that the responsibility of COSTECH is to organize and monitor various research activities being conducted in the country.

That is why when it comes to research being conducted on agriculture, the COSTECH Research Coordinator and Biotechnology Specialist Dr Beatrice Lyimo says when you talk about biotechnology, it refers to a wide variety of agricultural technology.

 

Maize variety Coordinator from Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), Ilonga centre in ilosa in Morogoro district, Dr Arnod Mushongi gives an example of different biotechnology, which includes fermentation technology used in different areas, including baking of bread, milk, medicine, cleaning the environment and land fertilization and many more where microbes like bacteria have been used in human life.

“In Tanzania we have used and will continue to use fermentation technology in maize farming and other areas.

The second technology which is commonly used is tissue culture using bottles. This is a long term process which has many benefits on garden plants like flowers, vegetables and fruits,” he said.

He added that bottle technology is mostly used on plants which are hard to acquire their seeds or seedlings like banana and other plants which are affected by diseases. 

He says guidelines obtained from statistical analysis, reports, knowledge and skills on the technology has helped to boost farming, science and biological resource innovation for development of environmental protection.

He mentioned GMO technology, saying together with the cropping up of new biotechnology uproots every day, still the GMO technology is being monitored closely so that it can be understood before allowing Tanzanians to venture into it.

“Although countries are different in terms of invention, discovery, implementation and use of the technology, Africa is still lagging behind, where the champions are countries which are developed economically, scientifically and in terms of technology,” he said.

He says Tanzania needs to know their challenges and choose the right solution, saying what is important is selecting biotechnology which will be accepted and solve problems facing a particular community, economically and continuation of resource protection.

“We are not in any particular hurry when it comes to biotechnology. A broader collective understanding means continuous development, from individual, family, national, regional and finally Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said.

On such technology, Dr Beatrice of COSTECH says all agricultural technologies help farmers to realize good harvests.

She says as a commission, they coordinate the research and its results, doing their best so that every research that has brought results is ready to go to the public. One of the methods they use is that of exhibition farms as they believe that seeing is believing.

 

“Therefore we want to go according to reality, for example today we are talking about biotechnology, and then a farmer gets access to biotechnology with learning best farming practices, that means the technology will not help them, so when we talk about technology we talk about it broadly, lie the type of seeds, the kind of trenches to put and the type of fertilizers. We talk about all these when we talk about biotechnology,” she says.

 

On GMO, Beatrice the Commission has been involved in educating on the whole GMO chain, from agricultural colleges, extension officers, farmers and policy makers so that they can have a better understanding.

"We believe that when extension officers get education at the right time, they will be of great help because we believe that many of them finished their education a long time ago, so sometimes they do not have accurate information on available technologies,” she says.

 

She mentioned Kagera, Mwanza, Geita, Tabora, Dodoma, Lindi, Mtwara, Morogoro and Coast regions as among the regions where they visited about 35 districts and 57 villages.

 

“On biotechnology education, in four regions (Kagera, Mwanza, Geita and Tabora) we had a meeting with the Regional Commissioner, Administrative Secretary and Security Committees where we trained them on biotechnology,” she said.

However, she said that in Tanzania, GMO is still in research stages, where they are currently researching on cassava in their laboratories at the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute in Mikocheni.

In health, research has been conducted on sickle cell disease where Tanzania has recorded great strides.

"There was an attempt to see how they could do to mosquitoes by studying mosquitoes that would not be able to transmit malaria at the Ifakara Health Institute," she says, adding that their aim was doing the research on mosquitoes which do not transmit malaria.

 

Speaking on environmental policy, he says before they did not have the latest technology like the one which was launched earlier this year by Vice President Dr Philip Mpango which will determine how they can manage biotechnology.

She says it is the responsibility of the responsible sector to look at how to manage the technology.

 

“The current policy is very clear, that it recognizes the importance of modern technology but at the same time has put in place an enabling environment for moderating the technology so that if it is beneficial then we can reap the benefits, but if it has negative effects it can be minimized,” she concluded.

 

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