Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rethinking Zimbabwe's ban on genetically modified food

Zimbabwe has imported food constantly over the last 15 years. Successive droughts and land seizures have contributed to the lack of food.

During this time of food shortages, the country has had a ban on growing genetically modified food. The only GMO food sold within Zimbabwe has been imported from elsewhere. Many are calling on the government to rethink this ban. Citing some of the drought resistant attributes of GMO seeds that could help Zimbabwe become food sufficient again.

From Reuters Alert net, writer Madalitso Mwando looks into the debate.

Last month, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) announced it was asking the government to allow farmers to plant GMO crops to boost agricultural production after a succession of poor harvests.
 “We will continue pushing for the embracing of GMO production, using GMO technology,” the CZI said in a statement, noting that exporting such food would be a starting point.
Zimbabwe has long opposed the production of genetically modified crops, even though imported GMO products have flooded supermarkets since the easing of stringent import regulations in 2009, when the country suspended the local currency.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made has said previously that the country will not allow farmers to produce GMOs, claiming they contain toxic substances that are harmful to consumers’ health and that they are less nutritious than organic foods.
The minister’s position has been criticised as flawed since Zimbabwean farmers use pesticides and fertiliser, so locally produced food, while non-GMO, is not necessarily organic.
However, there remain policy differences within the troubled coalition government on this issue, as with others. Science and technology minister Heneri Dzinotyiwei said last month that the government was reviewing its anti-GMO policy.
According to Dzinotywei, the safety of GMOs has been confirmed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organisation, as well as the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, a non-profit research organisation.

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