Zimbabwe: Experts Carrying Out Research On GMOs

Zimbabwe has not adopted genetic modification technologies on a commercial basis pending the outcome of consultations with stakeholders.  Experts are conducting research and trials on GMOs or genetically modified organisms.  These are organisms whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. Transgenic organisms, a subset of GMOs, are organisms that have inserted DNA that originated in a different species.

 

Zimbabwe has recognized biotechnologies as critical for development but many recognized there is need to ensure safety in biotech practice.  The country has a policy and regulatory framework for GMOs because of the double-edged nature of new technologies especially the benefits and costs.

 

It is estimated that by 2050, Africa will have a population of two billion people and could face serious food shortages.  GMOs have been touted as a possible solution.  Many African governments are, however, skeptical about GM crops as a result of the spill over concerns in Europe about food safety, environmental sustainability and general public mistrust.

 

 

In 2010, after nine years of talks, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) produced a draft policy on GM technology. This proposed policy was sent to all 19 national governments for consultation in September 2010. Under the policy, a member country which wants to grow a new GM crop would inform COMESA who would have sufficient scientific expertise to make the decision as to whether the crop was safe for the environment and for humans. At the moment, few countries have the resources to make their own decisions. Once COMESA had made their decision, permission would be granted for the crop to be grown in all 19 member countries. Member countries would retain the power not to grow the crop in their own country if they wanted. Last year 148 million hectares of GM crops were grown worldwide. Click here to read article in The Herald (Zimbabwe).

 

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