Maputo — Mozambique's Institute of Agricultural Research (IIAM) is harvesting its first genetically modified maize (GM maize), which has been grown in a test field of Chókwè research station in the southern province of Gaza.
According to the daily paper "Diario de Mocambique" the aim is assist the productive sector with drought resistant and insect tolerant seeds should the results be positive.
The tests are taking place in an area of about 0.25 hectares, using 14 varieties of GM maize.
Pests are one of the main factors that cyclically contribute to low production and productivity of maize and one of the major concerns for both domestic and peasant farmers, particularly for those with limited financial resources to buy pesticides.
In the second trial, which is expected to be sown later this year, drought varieties of maize will be tested. Drought resistant is one of the key factors for the success of maize production in Mozambique, due to impact of climate change that is already being felt in the country and the whole Southern Africa region, with a huge negative impact for the agricultural sector.
Research is under the aegis of IIAM, a governmental institution responsible for the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project, which includes Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya and Uganda through their own agricultural research institutes.
"In this first phase we did tests to evaluate resistance to insects and we have been monitoring them over the last months, from the sowing done in February until now", said Pedro Fato, a maize researcher at IIAM, cited by the Diario de Mocambique.
"Today (7 August), we are about to start harvesting for preliminary analyzes, that is part of WEMA research process implemented by IIAM. We will investigate the yield part of the crop and evaluate to what extent the insect resistance gene works under Mozambican conditions, "he explained.
IIAM Director General, Olga Fafetine, pointed out that the aim "by the end the country will have modified maize seeds in a way that favors the desired traits for both pest resistance and drought tolerance".
Testing of genetically modified maize from the United States is part of WEMA, an agricultural research project to develop new varieties for drought tolerance and insect resistance.
Mozambique already consumes genetically modified products, imported from countries such as Brazil and South Africa, without any negative impact on both human health and environment, according to the national authorities working on biosafety.