2 October 2012

Tanzania: Endless Debate On Gmos Must Come to an End

LAST week during the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Arusha, fresh calls were made for the government to adopt the Genetically Modified Organs (GMO) technology.

Among the proponents for the plan is the Minister for Water and Irrigation, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, who argued that an urgent policy shift is needed to enable the country improve the agricultural sector and also boost income by peasant farmers.

Prof Maghembe says that there is need to change negative mindset on the adoption of GMO technology especially in the face of uncertain weather patterns. Taking part in the panel at the forum on how technological change in agriculture is essential for improving food security and agricultural growth, the minister stuck to his position that GMOs are one way to increase productivity and enrich the African farmer.

He also asked the local scientists to come forward and conduct research on whether or not GMOs are a good idea to enable the government act accordingly. It is on record that the government has always backing the plan to start research on GMOs on its territory to keep up with new technology and also to modernize agriculture for rural communities and promote balanced economic growth.

However, the plan has faced criticism from other East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) partner states that it will create legal uncertainties for farmers. Last July, the European Union banned GMO crops in its member states on environmental grounds such as pesticide resistance, the invasiveness of certain crops, threats to biodiversity or lack of data on potential negative effects on the environment.

The other grounds include socio-economic considerations such as the practicality and cost of measures to avoid an unintentional presence of GMOs in other products among others. It's a fact that none in Tanzania has proved beyond reasonable doubt that GMOs are good, save for a few people and multinational seed companies which have been pushing for the introduction of the new technology.

Lack of credible information and clear guidelines on GMOs by the government has created confusion not only to farmers but policy makers as well. The government has mandated the Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and the National Coordinating Committee (NCC) to dwell on the issue. The public wants to know the outcome of this debate to put the matter to an end.

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