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April 27, 2007

Zimbabwe evaluating GMO benefits

Zimbabwe cannot afford to sit let its farmers lag behind when there is worldwide interest and acceptance of genetically modified organisms technology that has a dramatic impact upon production in competing countries, deputy minister of agriculture, David Chapfika has said.

He was addressing a GMO consultative workshop, "Poverty Alleviation : Increased Cotton Production Through Cotton Seed Technologies" in Harare in February. He said the country should come up with a roadmap wherein technology can be evaluated and tested. The economic and management benefits needed to be clearly identified and commercial decisions made on the basis of good science.

"Cotton is one of the most important crops in Zimbabwe and its production has been taken over almost entirely by small-holder farmers. Hundreds of thousands of rural families rely on the 'white gold' for their annual breadbasket, cash resources for school fees and survival itself," Chapfika said.

Speaking at the same workshop, Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe chairman Dr. Robbie Mupawose said many of the challenges the country's economy faced could be addressed through the systematic application of science, technology and innovation. "Both conventional and new cutting edge technologies have to be embraced if our country is to say good bye to chronic food insecurity, ill health, degraded environment, unsustainable energy bills and declining economic activity," he said.

He said countries that have embraced science, technology and innovation like China, India and Malaysia served as good testimony of the positive impact of sound science, technology and innovation policies. "While biotechnology will not be the sole answer to the country’s teething problems, it certainly provides a lot of leverage. Techniques like genetic modification can reduce input requirements, provide disease free, pest resistant and drought tolerant crop varieties and animal breeds," he said.

Cotton exports earned Zimbabwe more than US$102 million in 2006, contributing significantly to the country's export earnings. The total cotton production for the 2005/06 cropping season was estimated to be between 270 000 to 300 000 tonnes.

The Herald

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