Government has called for the reconsideration of adopting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) crops in light of incessant droughts which have seen the country try to meet most of its food needs through importation in recent years.
In scientific terms, genetic modification is the process of altering the genetic makeup of an organism.
This has been done indirectly for thousands of years by controlled, or selective, breeding of plants and animals.
Such processes have led to the creation of breeds which can grow fairly well in very harsh conditions under extreme heat or cold temperatures.
Owing to both health and environmental effects associated with GMOs, government has in the past maintained a ban on adopting such practices saying they could expose citizens to allergic responses, or undesired side effects such as toxicity, organ damage, or gene transfer.
But speaking recently while presenting the 2021 Budget Strategy Paper, Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube said it was time the country reconsidered GMOs.
“The impact of climatic changes and reliance on old agricultural methods over the years requires us to revisit our technologies with a view of enhancing production and productivity.
“This includes the necessity of adopting modern alternative technologies including tissue culture as well as further assessments of GMOs, through vigorous debate that examine the merits and demerits of genetic engineering,” he said.
In the past, Cotton Producers and Marketers Association have challenged the government’s anti-GMO position arguing it has never been supported by any research and have since challenged the government to reignite such critical debate.
The development also comes at a time when the government has been accused of secretly lifting the GMO ban after allowing the importation of modified corn from neighbouring South Africa.