Climate change has wreaked havoc for a host of crops throughout Uganda and East Africa, but new clearances to move forward with genetically modified food trials may ease up some of the dents made in the country's food supply. Scientists received permission from government authorities to conduct field trials on brown streak-resistant cassava, bananas resistant to the bacterial infection from Xanthomonas, and cotton containing the Bt and "roundup-ready" genes. But while research clearances have been given, it's not clear when or to what extent such crops will become commercially available.
Researchers are calling Uganda's move "historic."
"It is also significant that the committee has matured with functional and competent systems to assess and evaluate applications, with rejections and approvals," said Yona Baguma, vice-chairman of the National Biosafety Committee.
"This shall be a trial on efficacy for drought-tolerance by GM and conventionally bred maize. When it succeeds, we expect to carry out more trials on starch content, taste, production outputs and to commercialize by 2017," said principal investigator, Godfrey Asea.
Like the Philippines, where a vocal agriculture secretary has expressed concern over an insufficient attempt at organic farming before jumping into GMO, critics in Uganda are also expressing concerns—namely, that the country does not have the appropriate infrastructure in place to evaluate the safety of the GMO products. Sooner or later, it seems that dozens of developing countries will adopt genetically modified practices, especially if the process is more affordable and helps the country at least feign development.
[Image: Peeling Cassava]