The media has lately been awash with articles in support and against the Biotechnology Bill before Parliament's
It is without doubt that public sector research is the greatest source of innovation and is vital for national development. A developing country like
While it has been widely argued that GMOs are high yielding, food production will increase and match the high population growth, thus putting an end to hunger, the facts on the ground seem to be at odds with this assertion. As observed in a study by the
In the study, ready soya bean seeds produced fewer bushels of soya beans than similar conventionally bred varieties. Furthermore, countries like
A comparative study of research station yields and farm yields in
Existing farming practices do not allow for the coexistence of GMO and non-GMO crops. It is common to find livestock in crop areas, a situation which will only increase the potential for contamination. The resource starved agriculture sector cannot marshal the resources to implement Segregation, which would lessen the risk of contamination as this requires the creation of buffer zones, sterilising harvesting, transport and processing equipment where it exists.
Lastly, GMOs are not pro-poor and don't maximise benefits for them. And here is why. Genetic research is time consuming, costly and involves considerable financial risk. Companies that invest in such processes need to recoup their investments, just like any business venture. They do this by selling seeds to poor farmers in rural areas.
There is no doubt that the development of GMOs is profit motivated. Embracing biotechnology and GM crops will set us down a dangerous road. We can improve the conditions in agriculture by increasing the agriculture budget, strengthening the extension system to transfer knowledge from the research stations to the farmers and improving land management practices, among others, not by adopting and introducing GMOs.
It is my humble submission that until the Bill addresses the health, economic, social and environmental concerns associated with GM foods and biotechnology, it should be shelved.
Mr Bibuli is the coordinator,
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