The first genetically modified (GM) maize research trials have been planted on October 5, 2016 in Tanzania’s Dodoma region, a semi-arid area in the central part of the country. The confined field trial aims to demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of a drought tolerant GM maize hybrid developed by the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project. Dr. Alois Kullaya, country coordinator for the WEMA project in Tanzania, said that researchers are happy that they are now able to carry out confined field trials, “and produce tangible results for people to see, as well as illustrate how biotech maize will benefit the farmers.” He however stated that the GM maize would take at least three years to establish its value.
Tanzania’s progress comes a year after the country revised a strict liability clause in the Environment Management Biosafety Regulations. The restrictive clause stated that scientists, donors, and partners funding research would be held accountable in the event of any damage that might occur during or after research on GM crops. Such developments in Tanzania, therefore provides hope for the technology’s prospects across the continent. This is fundamental because Africa has been ravaged by frequent drought over the years, leading to severe crop shortages and hunger for over 300 million Africans who depend on maize as their main food source.
Under a royalty-free licensing agreement, seed companies in Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda are already growing and selling DroughtTEGO™, a drought tolerant maize hybrid developed by WEMA to suit local conditions.
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