The government of Zimbabwe confirmed it will continue to prohibit the growing of genetically modified crops, arguing it is not yet convinced on the benefits of GMOs. The statement comes amid growing calls for the government to allow for the growing of GMO crops as a means to boost agricultural production negatively affected by recurring droughts, which are being exacerbated by conditions associated with climate change.
Last year, most parts of southern Africa, Zimbabwe included, suffered severe long dry spells due to an El Niño weather pattern, resulting in significant yield reductions for major crops such as maize and cotton. It is anticipated that this year’s cotton output will be the lowest in two seasons, dropping from 142,000 tons to about 68,000 tons from 2018 and 74,000 tons in 2017 due to drought. Drought has also affected maize output, which dropped by 54 percent to 776,635 tons. Indications show that the country is likely to import almost one million tons of the crop.
Advocates of genetically modified crops said the government should take a fresh look and embrace the growing of such crops to boost productivity and reduce imports.
“I think it is the right time to adopt these GMOs because of the state of national food security as well as to improve better yields,” said Dr. Dexter Savadye, chief executive of National Biotechnology Authority told Sunday Mail Business in an interview.
“Actually, we are already consuming the GMOs and I think it is ideal to start engaging now. We have neighboring countries namely South Africa and Botswana that are already consuming these. As a country, we must not be left behind.”
However, Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri, said while the debate was ongoing on GMOs, growing of such varieties remain prohibited.
“We have not yet been convinced yet on the benefits (of GMOs),” said Minister Shiri, adding that government’s major concern remained on their impact on the environment.
GMOs supporters, however, say the concerns being raised by the Zimbabwean government and other African countries, were yet to be scientifically proven.
Last week, Cotton Producers and Marketers Association chairman Mr. Steward Mubonderi, said the government’s anti-GMO position had never been supported by any research. He further indicated that the association once made a case for genetically modified technology with the government and believes it was high time such critical debate be given another chance.
“This position has to be reviewed,” said Mr. Mubonderi. “GMOs will enable local farmers to produce more, even enough to export so that the country earns the much-needed foreign currency.”
Already, the country is consuming significant imported GMOs which have rendered the country’s agricultural produce uncompetitive. Zimbabwe’s policy on GMO foods does not prohibit consumption, but only production.
IFOAM – Organics International actively campaigns to control the negative effects brought by GMOs, with the aim to safeguard organic seed production for organic agriculture. These activities were financially supported by the Schweisfurth Foundation.
- The Letter from America – Voices of Experience from Ground Zero.
- Global GMO Free Coalition – Partnership to Enhance Influence.
- IFOAM EU Group – Keeping GMOs out of EU Organics.
The manual’s target group is farmers, farm leaders, and activists who are considering establishing a GMO-free region but are in need of assistance, guidance, and good examples. As situations differ and the (political) process of establishing GMO-free regions is highly dependent on human relations, the manual is intended to act only an overview or framework, acknowledging that the action has to be done ‘on the ground’. With this in mind, the manual aims to be as complete as possible in its overview, allowing for the potential to act from different people in different situations.
Article Source: The Sunday Mail No to GMOs, position unchanged by Martin Kadzere and Kumbirai Tarusenga.