Zimbabwe discussing big biotech issues
Agriculture minister Joseph Made recently told Zimbabwe’s National Assembly that the government policy banning GMOs had not changed. He said introducing them would be detrimental to the local seed industry, and that the country has sufficient capacity to produce high-yielding varieties of grain suitable for its changing climate.
At the heart of the GMO debate are claims by proponents that GM crops are a tool to boost food security and end world hunger through hardy, better-yielding crops, especially in the face of climate change.
Critics of GM say these crops have negative implications for ecosystems, human and animal biodiversity, and that conventional agricultural breeding methods have not failed to an extent that would warrant the use of GM.
Jeffery Smith, an advocate of GM-free agriculture in the United States and executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, said hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent by biotech companies trying to convince the world that GM crops are safe, and are needed to feed the planet’s population.
“Based on considerable scientific evidence, we now know that the current generation of genetically modified organisms is not safe and therefore GMOs should not be used in the food supply,” Smith said via e-mail.
But Mark Lynas, a former anti-GM activist turned GM supporter, said African farmers should be allowed to develop out of poverty by using modern farming methods, including improved and GM crop varieties, if they want to.
He argued that opponents of GM crops "want to deny African smallholders choice, and only allow them to use ideologically approved 'traditional' varieties, which are lower-yielding and leave families hungry”.
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