26 April 2014

Tanzania: Inspectors Trained On Safe GMO Application

Arusha — TANZANIA has started training bio-safety inspectors on standard operating procedures on Genetic Modified Organisms as research continues to gain ground.

A two day sessions organised by the Programme for Biosafety Systems (PBS) in conjunction with the Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and the Environment Division in the Vice-President's Office, involved 12 experts, among them 10 inspectors from the Tropical Pesticide Research Institute (TPRI) of Arusha and two from COSTECH.

"Although there is resistance against genetically engineered crops, it is high time people are aware of the fact that, agriculture is becoming extremely susceptible to effects of climate change, new diseases and spells of drought; in Tanzania for instance, crop production keeps going down," stated Dr Roshan Abdallah, Country Coordinator for Programme for Bio Safety Systems (PBSS).

According to Dr Abdallah, Tanzania used to record bumper harvests to the extent of exporting surplus, but this has changed as the country hardly produces enough to feed its citizens, thus calling for alternative techniques to improve crop production.

One of the trainers, Dr Emmarold Mneney, a Research Scientist on Biotechnology at the Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI), explained that the training is specifically for TPRI inspectors as the Arusha-based, institute, which runs the National Plant Genetic Centre, oversees the country's GMO applications in agriculture.

"Previously, we trained Regional Commissioners (RCs) as well as policy makers on this new farming technology with the backdrop of activists who oppose GMOs," stated Dr Mneney.

"The fear of GMOs is unfounded and mostly triggered by ignorance and through awareness programmes more people will understand the importance of this new technology in rescuing the collapsing crop production in Tanzania, Africa and the rest of the world," he pointed out.

Tanzania is currently working on Genetic Engineered Cassava crop at the one-hectare Confined field trial site in the Makutopora area of Dodoma, where according to experts, results are encouraging and the country may spearhead the first cassava GMOs production in the near future.

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