30 May 2017

Tanzania: Monsanto Targets GMO Seeds Factory

MONSANTO Tanzania, the multinational agricultural biotechnology company, plans to open Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seeds production facility in the country.

The firm revealed during the opening of its office in Njiro Industrial Area in Arusha yesterday after seeing GMO maize seeds demand increase.

The Monsanto African Regional Lead, Dr Gyanendra Shukla said that already initial trials for the GMO seeds in the country have shown fruits especially after droughts driven by climate changes.

"... Therefore laboratories and a factory for mass production of these technologically improved (maize) seeds are in the pipeline here," Dr Shukla said.

He said more than 3,000 tons of GMO seeds have been sold by his company so far and that local farmers find the new variety more reliable, profitable and easy to manage than traditional seedlings. Monsanto intends to work with the Agricultural Seeds Agency (ASA).

The firm believes the genetically modified seeds will help transform the agriculture sector in the country in line with improving local farmers' lives. Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Mr William Ole Nasha who graced the Monsanto Tanzania Office launch in Arusha said the country still faces seed shortages.

The country needs 212,300 tons of seeds per every season but only managed to get 36,000 tons, of which 21,000 tons are produced locally while 15,000 tons are imported. According to the Deputy Minister the country geared on increasing seeds production to reach 40,000 tons this year.

Mr Ole Nasha used the occasion to remind that when it come to grains, Tanzania was second in Africa for producing more maize at 6 million tons per year.

South Africa tops the bill with more than 10 million tons of grain harvests.

Three years ago Tanzania had started to train bio-safety inspectors in the country's field of agriculture, on standard operating procedures to guide safe usage of GMOs as researches on the latter continue to gain ground.

The training was announced through Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) in conjunction with the Commission for Science and Technology and the Environment Division in the Vice-President's Office, involving experts, from the Tropical Pesticide Research Institute (TPRI) of Arusha and the Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH).

Though there have been some opposition on the genetically engineered crops, it was stated that agriculture is becoming extremely susceptible to effects of climate change, new diseases and drought spells therefore new seeds technology was inevitable in order to solve the problem.

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