News Column

GMOs can boost food production: scientist

April 28, 2014

Zephania Ubwani ,The Citizen Reporte -1

Arusha. Genetically modified organisms (GMO) technology can boost food production in Tanzania, but it has to be well regulated, a leading research scientist has posited.

Dr Roshan Abdallah, coordinator for the Programme for Biosafety Systems (PBS), said there was a need to embrace the technology as an alternative to improve agricultural production to meet the growing demand.

"In Tanzania farm production has gone down over the years. We need an alternative approach to increase production and that is GMO technology," she told The Citizen in an interview.

However, she said using GMO to achieve food security was not an easy task because it calls for a comprehensive legal and institutional framework before it is put in place.

Dr Abdallah, who until recently served as technical director with the Tropical Pesticides Training Institute (TPRI) based here, said there was an increased awareness on GMO in Tanzania now unlike in the past.

"This issue is now being discussed in policy forums. At least there is some general awareness now on the subject among policy makers and other stakeholders," she said.

She said fears which have generated in the past over GMO products have been found to be false and that what the government should do was to ensure the introduction of the technology fell within the internationally accepted regulatory framework.

She was speaking during a training of biosafety inspectors from TPRI. The Arusha-based research institution would handle all GMO products in the agricultural sector.

Other national institutions which are to be involved in genetic engineering programmes include the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority- TFDA (on food safety aspects), the ministry of Livestock and Fisheries (livestock vaccines) while the Government Chemist will handle GMO products in the medical sector.

The National Environment Management Council (Nemc), Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (Tawiri), Tanzania Forestry Research Institute (Tafori) and the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (Tafiri) are other local bodies which will be involved in the GMO research aspects.

A biotechnology research scientist with Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (Mari), Dr Emmarold Mneney, said besides the legal framework, safe application of GMOs required confined trials, among other demands.

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Source: Citizen, The (Tanzania)

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