Agriculture / Biotechnology / East Africa / Event / Food Security / Research / Uganda

GMOs good for Africa–Calestous Juma, Kenyan biotechnology expert and Harvard professor

Bio-Innovate launch: Harvard's Calestous Juma

Calestous Juma, a Kenyan agricultural and biotechnology expert and professor at Harvard University, gave the keynote presentation at the 2011 launch of Bio-Innovate, at ILRI’s Nairobi campus (photo credit: ILRI).

Biotechnology and genetic engineering have the potential to do for agriculture what mobile technology has done for the communications sector in Africa, a renowned Harvard University scholar, Prof. Calestous Juma, has said.

‘Prof. Juma, who was in the country for a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni, advocated for the adoption of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) saying they would boost food and income security.

‘He however, cautioned that it would be detrimental to adopt GMOs without clear flexible and supportive biotechnology regulations, asking Parliament to pass the Biotechnology Bill. . . .

‘At [a] public lecture he emphasised the role of technology in transforming livelihoods, insisting that if Africa didn’t embrace GMOs in agriculture, the problems like climate change, pests and diseases that have dogged the sector over the years would devour production to shocking levels.

‘He cited the [b]anana bacterial wilt which has devastated banana growers in Uganda, saying the problem would be deterred i[f] farmers planted GMO banana varieties that are resistant to the wilt.

‘He decried the phenomenon of resisting new technologies, saying it won’t help Africa to develop.

On the safety of GMOs, he likened the current debate to the rumours that were circulated during the early days of mobile technology that the phones would cause brain cancer. . . .

“Biotechnology and in particular GMOs are not per se more risky than conventional plant breeding,” he asserted.

‘Prof. Zerubabel Nyiira, state minister for agriculture, said while science and technology were the tickets to economic development, genetic engineering would spur food and nutritional security.

‘Dr. Andrew Kiggundu of the National Agricultural Organisation (NARO), said they had begun using biotechnology to produce drought, pests and disease resistant crop varieties. . . .

Read the whole article by Francis Kagolo in New Vision (Uganda): GMOs good for Africa’s development, says Harvard don, 21 Apr 2013.

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