17 June 2009

Uganda: Bio-Technology Can Boost Small Farmers' Incomes - Experts

Kampala — SMALL-HOLDER farmers' incomes can increase if they adopt genetically-modified (GM) crops, a director at the International Food Policy Research Institute's (IFPRI) has observed.

"In the coming years, growing populations, stagnating agricultural productivity and increasing climate change will make it more difficult for Africa to tackle poverty, hunger and nutrition," Mark Rosegrant said.

Rosegrant said in order to fight these challenges, many African countries, including Uganda, are increasingly assessing a range of tools and technologies like bio-technologies, which hold great promise for improving crop yields, household incomes and nutritional quality of food in an environmentally-sustainable way.

He said this during a workshop about bio-technology at the Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel, Entebbe. The workshop aimed at bridging the gap between policy and research and providing solid information on which sound choices and investments related to GM technology can be made.

"The future of agriculture in Uganda and the world lies in bio-technology. This is not about large-scale farmers, but also small-scale farmers," Rosegrant said.

GM/bio-technology is a system where bio-science is used to identify better yielding crops and resist diseases.

The organisation said increased adoption of GM crops could lower the price of food in developing countries by 2050.

"Using bio-technology eases the process of solving problems that would have taken years to solve and improves yields," Dr. Andrew Kiggundu, the head of the bio-technology centre at Kawanda, said.

"All the misconceptions about bio-technology are not true. I have been in this field for many years and eaten foods that have been generated this way, but I do not have trees growing over my head," Dr. Arinaitwe, who is in charge of matooke fortification, said.

Arinaitwe said bananas are the most consumed food in Uganda. However, they lack vital elements like Vitamin A and iron, but can be fortified with these vital elements using bio-technology.

According to Dr. Titus Alicai, bio-technology has made the fight against viruses ravaging crops across the country faster.

In the last 30 years, viruses have attacked coffee, cassava, bananas and other crops. Between 1993 and 1999, cassava was almost wiped out.

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