African seed body backs use of genetically engineered seeds

Source: Xinhua| 2017-11-18 00:53:55|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by Peter Mutai

NAIROBI, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- A continental seed body on Friday supported the coexistence of genetically modified (GMO) seeds and conventional ones.

The Secretary General of African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) Justin Rakotoarisaona said farmers stand to benefit greatly once they embrace modern agricultural tools.

"The use of improved GMO seeds is poised to make inroads into African agriculture in the near future, hence the need to address co-existence of biotech and conventional crops," Rakotoarisaona told Xinhua during an interview on Friday.

He noted the arrangement should incorporate good agricultural practices by ensuring that standardized measures are followed.

Agriculture is Africa's principle economic income generating activity, and the application of agricultural inputs such as improved seeds, pesticides and fertilizers continues to grow across the continent.

However access to quality seeds is still a challenge to many farmers due to high cost of seeds and climatic differences.

In some countries, accessing quality seeds is stifled by inadequate supply, in others it is inhibited by unwillingness to buy seeds, as many farmers still rely on farm-saved seeds.

"African farmer's uptake of new varieties stands at about 25 percent because of lack of knowledge of what the varieties can do in an environment littered with poor perception about breeder seeds," he noted.

He also said there was no need to fear as the emergence of modern crop biotechnology has led to development of a strict regulatory framework that governs the use and transfer of the technology.

South Africa is one of the countries in Africa that is already benefiting from the technology, while several countries have massively invested in biosafety systems and regulations to ensure safe use and application of this technology.

"The countries that are already growing biotech crops or permit their importation have biosafety laws in place that handle matters relating to human and environmental safety," he noted.

"We believe that agricultural coexistence is not new and that it has been successfully practiced in the past and real world experience has shown that coexistence between the different crop production systems is possible," Rakotoarisaona added.

He said Africa remains the net importer of seeds hence requires increased inflows of modern technology to facilitate seed availability.

AFSTA believes that the continent needs to take up and adopt new technologies like GMOs to be able to properly feed the increasing population and as well earn foreign exchange.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) ministers of agriculture adopted harmonized seed trade regulations to facilitate across-board seed trade, encourage integration, enhance agricultural growth and ultimately improve food security and communities' livelihood in the region in September 2013.