Companies seek support on Genetically Modified Organisms seeds
Seed companies in the country want the government to support their bid to trade in Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) as one way of increasing their participation on international markets.
Through their parent organisation, the Seed Trade Association of Malawi (Stam), the traders are calling for strategic partnerships to make Malawians aware of the importance of cultivating genetically modified crops.
The call comes following increased cases of pests that are destroying crops countrywide.
Speaking on the sidelines of a consultative meeting organised by Stam held in Lilongwe, Nessimu Nyama, Secretary of the association, noted that time for commercialisation of GMOs had come and that government needs to move fast and state its position on the technology.
Currently, Malawi does not trade in any genetically modified products but trials and national performance trials on cotton and cowpeas have been successfully carried out and are set for commercialisation.
The seed companies noted that as farmers prepare to start commercial cultivation of new cotton seeds including Bt cotton, it is time they started discussing how conventionally grown cotton will co exist with the new brands.
Meanwhile, trials on genetically modified crops have been done on cassava, bananas, cowpeas and cotton.
According to Nyama, the seed sector in the country stands to reap big in the projected $73 billion global seed industry if the government supports the adoption of genetically modified seeds.
“Given that Africa only contributes two percent of the global share in the global seed industry, Malawi, endowed with good weather and soils, could take advantage and grow more for export than for local consumption,”
“For instance, looking at cotton, there are a lot of diseases and pests attacking the crop, so there is need to have new technologies that will eradicate these challenges and make the crops healthier. Every technology comes with merit and demerits, so people have to be sensitised,” he said.
On her part, a senior lecturer in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), Wezzie Mkwaila said Malawi is adequately equipped to start producing GMOs.
“We have basic infrastructures to venture into this and that is why we have successfully conducted trials on cowpeas and cotton. Bananas are also being tested for virus resistance and there are many potential crops like soy beans and cassava that are being developed in other countries that have potential to benefit Malawi,’’ she said.
The seed association has begun to discuss a draft position paper that will state their official stand on GMOs and the co existence of these products. The draft will be ready by July this year.