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2-Plants: Tanzania to conduct field-trials of GM cotton

    COMMENT: Why would Tanzania want to expand cotton production?

    In the articles that have circulated [recently], it is claimed that
    the Bt cotton that is supposed to begin to be field tested in
    Southern Tanzania will re-open that part of the country to cotton
    cultivation. This is hailed as a good thing. For example:

   "The research will be conducted in the Mbeya, Rukwa and Iringa
    regions of Tanzania's southern highlands, where cotton production
    was suspended in 1968 in an effort to stop the bollworm spreading to
    the rest of the country. Since then, farmers in the region have
    largely grown sunflowers to sell to processors who extract oil from
    the plants. But the growers have complained that the industry offers
    little financial security due to the small local market for their
    crops. According to Paul Ntwina, the member of parliament for Songwe
    constituency, that the introduction of GM cotton would be good news
    for farmers in southern Tanzania. 'I am glad we will be able to
    produce cotton,' Ntwina told SciDev.Net. 'Technology is likely to
    be our liberator.' (Deodatus Balile, "GM crop tests get green light
    in Tanzania," 28 February 2005)

    It's pretty hard to understand how any farmer in Tanzania will find
    liberation in cotton cultivation under the current circumstances.
    Tanzania is suffering from miserably low global cotton prices and
    its own domestic increased production. Last year the government
    brought out the region's first ever set of direct subsidies to cotton
    farmers because the price they were receiving was far below the cost
    of production. According to the article "Tanzania to subsidise cotton
    farmers": "Tanzanian farmers will still be bracing themselves for
    hard times ahead, with an estimated 7.8 million tonnes of cotton,
    out of the 28 million tonnes produced, being surplus production.
    Tanzanian cotton production has also increased dramatically to
    500,000 bales this year, far higher than the 2003/04 yield."
                  see: <>

                      Devlin Kujek, GRAIN, <>, 23 Mar 2005


-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Tanzania to Conduct Field-Trials of GM Cotton
SOURCE: The East African, Kenya
        Additional Reporting by Joseph Mwamunyange
DATE:   28 Mar 2005

------------------- archive: -------------------

Tanzania to Conduct Field-Trials of GM Cotton

Tanzania has joined Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Burkina Faso and Kenya in
conducting confined field trials (CFT) for genetically modified crops
that will eventually open its doors to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

A Cabinet paper on GMO policy has already been prepared and parliament is
scheduled to debate and approve the approach towards GMO technologies mid
this year, according to Dr Jeremiah Haki, Director of Research at the
Ministry of Agricultural and Food Security.

Dr Haki says Tanzania, which largely depends on agriculture, cannot
afford to ignore technologies that increase crop yields and profits and
reduce farm costs.

Wilfred Ngirwa, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture
and Food Security, issued a statement two weeks ago saying the ministry
has, "Proactively participated in the development of a national policy
for biotechnology that will soon be tabled in the parliament."

"This policy will give overall guidance on all issues related to
biotechnology including priority areas for research and development,
regulatory framework, sustainable use of biodiversity and resource

Mr Ngirwa said in the interim period, the ministry has established the
Agricultural Biotechnology Scientific Advisory Committee (ABSAC) to
advise the minister on issues related to GMOs including their
importation, safe handling and testing.

Should there be an urgent need to import or test a GMO in this country
before the coming into force of the requisite legislation, ABSAC may be
called on to advise accordingly," said Mr Ngirwa adding, "The ministry
has however not yet decided on the importation of genetically engineered
crops for testing in the country.

Tanzania will start confined field trials (CFT) in the south of the
country where cotton farming was stopped in 1968 in a government move to
halt the spread of the redball worm disease that had hit the cotton crop.

The project has been well received by cotton farmers and depending on its
outcome, GM cassava will be introduced next.

The CFTs in southern Tanzania are good news for Members of Parliament
from the southern highlands, who have been calling on the government to
find alternative means of restarting cotton production in the region.

South Africa is the only African country that is already commercially
producing GM crops.

Tanzania is among the countries that ratified the Cartagena Protocol on
biosafety, an international law negotiated under the Convention on
Biological Diversity that has basic requirements for member countries to
comply when pursuing GMO.

Dr Sivramiah Shanthu Shanth-aram, a Member of the WHO/FAO Consultative
Committee on Biotechnology-Food Safety, was in Arusha, Tanzania in
February for a seminar on GMO technology for East African plant inspectors.

The seminar was attended by senior phytosanitary inspectors from the
Phytosanitary Services and Commission for Science and Technology of
Uganda's Ministry of Agriculture and from the Kenya Plant Heath Services
and Commission for Science and Technology.

The objective of the workshop was to familiarise phytosanitary inspectors
with the principles and procedures of compliance and inspection required
for the execution of safe CFTs of GM crops, as well as to enhance the
participants' understanding of concepts and issues associated with modern

The Kenyan and Ugandan participants said they were impressed with
Tanzania's biosafety structure.

Dr Shantharam said the time was ripe for East Africa to start GMO related
experiments, saying Africa should start to benefit from GMO technology,
which has the potential of alleviating hunger in Third World countries.

Dr Gratian Bamwenda, the director general of the Tropical Pesticides
Research Institute (TPRI), says his institution will closely monitor the
development and testing of genetically engineered products and provide
scientific advice concerning their safety.

He said bio-safety review teams will assess the potential risks
associated with GMOs and evaluate the possibility of the risk occurring
and the magnitude of harm.

Currently many African countries lack laws requiring food containers to
have labels showing the scientific composition of their ingredients and,
as a result, there is no way that consumers can know what they are really


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