As debate on using biotechnology to develop crop varieties goes on with a lot of controversies over the matter, scientists in the different research institutes under the
This time, the focus was on seed companies in which they highlighted the importance of the seed companies being armed with knowledge about crops developed using biotechnology especially as regards to hybrids, tissue culture and genetically modified (GM) crops.The meeting held in
At the event, Komayombi Bulegeya, commissioner crop protection at ministry of agriculture, noted it is as important for seed companies, who are selling different types of seeds to farmers, to have knowledge especially on the yielding capacity.
Enable the farmerThis could be hybrid seeds of cereals such as maize, rice, millet, sorghum, or legumes like groundnuts and beans, or vegetatively propagated ones like banana and cassava.He added that as the regulatory framework for managing GM crops is being pursued, it is important for seed companies to know facts about these crops so as to be in a position to adequately inform the farmer.
The various stakeholders, including seed companies, need to embrace new technologies because research is being done to enable farmers realise better output."Previously, research was done to improve crop varieties and now it is moving genes from one crop to another, which is referred to as modern biotechnology, to address challenges faced by the farmer such as pests and diseases, resistance to salinity and drought," Bulegeya said."There is need for safe management of this technology. At the national level, we have the Cartagena protocol, which outlines issues of safety that scientists have to follow when using modern biotechnology.
The benefitsDr David Talengera, from National Agricultural Research Laboratories Kawanda, told stakeholders that it is important for people working in seed companies to know factors surrounding farming systems such as pest and disease challenges, soil fertility, weeds, post-harvest practices, cropping system like agronomy practices and strategies for farmers to improve their crop productivity.
He pointed out that while marketing their seeds, they should be in position to tell the farmers and other stakeholders about the benefits of crops developed using modern biotechnology."They should be in position to cross-check with scientists if the seed developed does not contain Aflatoxin, is it high yielding, how about the test and so on. They should also be in position to tell the farmers that GM crops are not tissue culture crops and the benefits farmers can achieve from the different varieties developed using tissue culture," he added.
Current status of biotech crops in
African countries have increased their land under genetically modified crops. This was in a report, Global Status of Commercialised Biotech/GM Crops 2013, released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).
It also shows that seven countries--
Although the report says biotech crops are contributing to food security and significantly reducing poverty, majority of African countries are yet to embrace growing GM crops due to a combination of factors including strong anti-GM campaigns and the absence of regulatory frameworks.
For instance, the Ugandan Parliament is yet to approve the National Biosafety Bill meant to regulate the general use of the technology.
Globally, for the second year in a row, developing countries planted more hectares of biotech crops than industrialised countries.
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