TANZANIA - Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB) has said legalisation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) cotton in the country will help revive growing of the crop in regions that were barred to do so as a measure to control pests and diseases.
GMO refers to seeds implanted with certain genes to withstand droughts, pests and diseases developed by scientists using latest molecular biology technology. The seeds or planting material are modified in laboratories to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to diseases or improved nutritional content.
Speaking to The Guardian recently in Dar es Salaam, TCB acting Director General Gabriel Mwalo said some of the regions which stopped cultivating cotton due to diseases and pests include Mbeya, which was hit by the red bollworm in the 1970s.
Mwalo said the red bollworm cannot affect genetically engineered cotton.
“The government banned cotton growing in Mbeya region to stop the spreading of red bollworm to major cotton growing regions in the country, but with GMOs no worm will be spread or affect the crop,” he said
Mwalo pointed out that apart from GMOs increasing farmers’ yields, the hybrid seeds will also improve quality hence making Tanzania being able to compete with other major cotton producers in the world.
The TCB acting DG pointed out that neighbouring Kenya and Uganda are already undertaking field trails to pave way for commercial cultivation of the GMOs.
“GM cotton is resistant even to climate change and yields high quality products hence fetches higher prices,” he said
He argued that countries such as Senegal, which cultivate GM cotton have increased yields and improved quality of the crop allowing farmers to improve their lives.
Speaking recently in Dar es Salaam at a workshop themed “Climate, Food, and Trade: Developing Coherent Policies and Programmes, Lucas Saronga, who is a former acting Permanent Representative of the country to the United Nations, allayed people’s fears of GMOs, saying that they are certified and approved as safe for use.
Former Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF) Executive Director Dr Hoseana Lunogelo called on the government to conduct awareness campaigns on the use of genetically modified crops.
“Many farmers are complaining against effects of climate change but if introduced to genetically engineered cotton, they will not suffer,” Dr Lunogelo said.
A Dar es Salaam based economist, Migani Gabi, wondered why the government was taking too long to allow GM crop cultivation in the country.
“Tanzania is slow in adopting GM cotton but we are importing clothes made from GM cotton, so why are we delaying to adopt the technology queried.