No need for GMOs: Mpande
security, a research consultant, Mr Rodger Mpande said in Harare on Wednesday.
He said access to advanced technological means of production, and not genetic modification, holds the key to high yields.
Mr Mpande made the remarks while addressing delegates attending a Knowledge Brief convened by the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC) in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Organic Producers and Promoters Association (ZOPPA).
He blamed the food crisis in Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa on adverse weather and poor technological advancement.
“It is false that genetically modified crops have higher yields than our own varieties. It is false for Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is the first country in the world to develop a two-way maize hybrid – the SR52, which was not necessarily a genetically engineered product. “We have a vibrant seed industry that is next to none. Now there is a new variety that can yield 13 tonnes per hectare if all the necessary conditions are created,” he said.
Mr Mpande argued that if the average maize yield per hectare for most smallholder farmers is 0,6 tonnes, a deficit of 12,4tonnes from the new hybrid’s full potential, then it was only necessary to empower the farmers on the proper production technologies and not change the genetics of the crops.
He said low levels of technology were responsible for poor production levels, for example, farmers just applying fertilizers to soils that have not been tested, which may not address the nutrient structure of the soil to improve yields.
Mr Mpande explained that two things happened in genetic modification – first, a gene is inserted into a plant, which allows the plant to stand any chemicals applied to it afterwards – something referred to as herbicide tolerance.
Next is the Bt toxin expression that involves inserting a gene to intoxicate a plant so that it can kill pests making it unnecessary to apply pesticides later.
“Genetic modification interferes with other production systems, for instance, the organic method and breeds resistance to herbicides, which creates super weeds that are a problem to farmers.
“It also ignores ecologically friendly methods of weed management and takes away the option of farmer saved seed relying heavily on patent laws that do not empower the farmer,” added Mr Mpande.
Genetic modification, explained Mr Mpande, kills the natural potential of crops and sterilises other seeds in the process, which has earned it the nickname ‘terminator technology.’
He also bemoaned the absence of a solid Biosafety Framework on the farm level, border control and food safety regulation, a situation that is even made worse by the lack of a vibrant health monitoring system.