By Ndafadza Madanha
GOVERNMENT should consider lifting its ban on growing of genetically modified crops (GM crops) as they have the potential to spur productivity and enhance food security in the country.
However, government is not keen on embracing genetically modified crops citing long term health and environmental reasons.
On the global stage concerns have also arisen on the long-term effects of such crops on the farming landscape as GM crops often mingle with organic crop varieties in harmful ways.
The practice of monocropping, or raising one crop only on a given plot of land, has also proven to be damaging to soil over extended periods of time.
Additionally, the motives of large agricultural companies involved in the GM farming of Africa are far from clear-cut aid.
Despite these concerns local analysts who spoke to agrinews said it was surprising that Zimbabwe was lagging behind other countries that had adopted genetically modified crops yet it was one of the first countries to experiment with the GMCs.
“I think it should be relooked and aligned with Comesa and Sadc guidelines. While the law forbids the growing of GM crops, the ironic thing is we are eating the very GM foods every day.
Most imported processed foods we eat daily are made from GM crops especially from South Africa and there are no laws on labelling.
GM fruits are also smuggled into the country daily and we eat them, so at the end of the day the ban only succeeds in rendering the local industry uncompetitive and this tilts the playing field. Instead of banning growing of genetically modified crops we should be looking at healthy ways of implementing it in the country.
We were amongst the first country in Africa to experiment with GM crops but somehow we lost away,” said economic analyst Clemence Machadu
Another economic commentator and former legislator for Bulawayo East Eddie Cross reckoned government should change its policy and embrace GMO technology as the health concerns are not that major.
South Africa which has adopted genetically modified seeds has witnessed tremendous growth in its production of various crops notably soyabean.
According to Wandile Sihlobo an agricultural economist and head of agribusiness research at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) in South Africa soya bean production in the country has grown significantly since the dawn of democracy, from 67 700 tonnes in the 1993/94 production season to 1.6 million tonnes in 2017/18.
He said the growth was attributable to the adoption of genetically modified seeds (GM) in the early 2000’s which continues to spread across the country. In the 2016/17 production season, GM seed constituted roughly 95% of South Africa’s soybean plantings.
Additionally the success is not unique to South Africa, the world’s leading soybean producers such as the US, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Canada and Uruguay all grow GM soybeans. In fact, about 75% of global soybean production in the 2016/17 production season was GM.