Agricultural Officials, Experts Stress Benefits of Genetically Modified Crops

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ENA May 19/2020 Agricultural officials and experts have stressed today the benefits of genetically modified crops such as cotton, Enset and maize in resisting chronic diseases in Ethiopia.

A one-day forum organized by the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and attended by agricultural experts and officials discussed the benefits of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in Ethiopia.

EIAR Agricultural Biotechnology Director, Tadesse Daba said on the occasion that there are  bollworm (moth caterpillar that attacks the cotton boll), for instance, and some herbicides which attack crops but could be solved through replacement by genetically modified crops.

The genetically modified crops introduced to Ethiopia increase productivity, limit drought and prevent diseases, the director added.

Genetically modified maize is currently under confined field trial to check whether it really prevents diseases and drought or not, it was learned.

According to Tadesse, the first Genetically Modified (GM) crop permitted for Confined Field Trial (CFT) in Ethiopia was Bt-cotton in 2016 and licensed in 2018.  Bt-cotton is a generally modified pest resistant cotton that produces an insecticide against bollworm.

The other GM crop permitted for contained laboratory research was Enset, which is highly affected by bacterial wilt and no effective solution was yet found through classical research. This has been affecting more than 20 million people depending on Enset as a staple food.

The third CFT is on insect resistant and drought tolerant maize, for which the institute has  obtained permission for research.

Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research Director-General, Mandefro Negusse told ENA that the institute undertakes researches, Confined Field Trial (CFT), and introduced genetically modified crops to solve problems in the agriculture sector.

According to him, among the agricultural problems faced are insects like bollworm that highly affect cotton. ” We couldn’t overcome it through conventional works. So, we added a gene that resists the bollworm in the cotton.”

The genetically modified crops are productive, drought tolerant and diseases resistant, the director-general underscored.

Agriculture Minister Oumer Hussien, who chaired the forum, said on the occasion building institutional capacity and using technology should be prioritized in the agriculture sector to solve problems as existing potentials in the sector are fading away.