TANZANIA IS backing a plan to start research on genetically modified crops (GMO) in its territory, in a move Agriculture Minister Jumanne Maghembe says is meant to keep up with new technology and will modernise agriculture for rural communities and promote balanced economic growth.
The plan which will basically pave the way for use of GMO is however expected to face criticism from other East African Community and Southern African Development Community partners states, and would create legal uncertainty for farmers, according to analysts and policy makers.
Mr Maghembe said there are discussions between the ministry of agriculture and the office of the vice president on whether to allow GMOs taking into account safety legislation protecting farmers and consumers and whether to remove a contestable clause, a strict liability clause in the bio safety regulatory framework.
The clause in the bio safety regulatory framework ensures that even if GMOs were to be introduced, the companies supplying them would be accountable in case of any harm to the seed output crop yields or the health of consumers.
But according to Mr Maghembe, the time for being rigid on use of GMOs was over, especially in the face of uncertain weather patterns.
Last July, the European Union banned GMO crops in its member states on environmental grounds such as pesticide resistance, the invasiveness of certain crops, threats to biodiversity or a lack of data on potential negative effects on the environment.
The other grounds include socio-economic considerations such as the practicality and cost of measures to avoid an unintentional presence of GMOs in other products among others.