Some groups, including activists, are working hard to ensure that the Parliament does not permit the use of biotechnology in agriculture or farmers adapting genetically modified (GM) crops. They have come up with many counter arguments like it is wrong to tamper with nature because we will end up with undesirable crop traits that might spread to other plants, and thus destroy the ecosystem beyond redemption.
Keep in mind that for years, we have had the
Further developmentFrom time immemorial, mankind has interfered with or manipulated nature to get food. The crops we grow today used to grow in the wild thousands of years ago when man was still a gatherer and a hunter. It took human interference to get the food crops such as tomatoes, maize, bananas and the rest of them out of the wild and to grow them in gardens near people's homes.
Fruits like mangoes and oranges and animals such as goats and cows were part of the wildlife in the woods and grasslands. But man went about interfering with their growth, studying their environment in which they would thrive, and began bringing them closer to him for further development (propagation and breeding).
This was tampering with nature and there were always risks involved. Some of the animals carried diseases that were harmful to humans. For example, there was the risk of catching bird diseases as man struggled to domesticate chickens. A discoverer must sometimes take risks and the domestication of the animals commonly found in our homes involved many risks. Many would fight back and kill their captors. A cow is a very strong animal but a child of seven years may drive it to wherever he or she wants it to go. But this may not have been the case when it had just come out of the wild. It took some training and observation.
Enormous economic valueMan has continued to make observations on the plants and the animals under his control and to make improvements on them depending on the prevailing challenges and needs. He has carried out such practices as grafting, hybridisation, tissue culture, cloning, gene transfer, DNA tests, and a whole range of others in order to get higher yields or better tasting crops.
He constantly carries out seed selection and preservation depending on his desires. Some crop varieties are more resistant to disease while others may be more tolerant to adverse conditions like drought and a lot of rain. By selecting and propagating desired crop varieties, man has come up with a wide range of plants of enormous economic value from naturally existing species but of different characteristics.
There is a big reason for having these programmes. Some of them are fighting the "difficult" crop diseases like Banana Bacterial Wilt through genetic engineering. Others are improving the nutritive value of crops such as cassava and bananas.
In other words they are using biotechnology to make our crops defend themselves better against disease and pests, to add nutritive value to our food crops, and to make many of our crops better adapted to the environmental stresses brought about by global warming. By not passing the Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, Parliament will be hindering the progress of scientific agricultural research.
Matter of choiceThe passing of the Bill is not to outlaw the conventional methods and practices of farming; rather it sets up alternative methods of increasing agricultural yields in the wake of new production challenges.We want to achieve Vision 2040 and to become a middle-income country by 2020 but we may not if we fear to experiment with our crops. Plant breeding is about improving the quality, diversity, and performance of agricultural crops to suit our needs.
Plant breeding is one of the major secrets behind the massive crop production and impressive food security in such countries as the US, the
Food production using GMOs is practiced in countries like
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