By Ashish Wele
Science and technology hold the key to develop high output agriculture. The challenge is to use new technologies creatively for the benefit of farmers and to make evidence-based decisions on deployment of these technologies. India is the best example of using the technology of hybrids during “Green Revolution” and achieving a food surplus in 1990 from food scarcity in 1965. Now, India is witnessing second green/gene revolution by using GMOs. Indicators of the extraordinary impact of Bt cotton in improving yields, saving pesticides cost, and as a result strong acceptance of Bt technology in cotton by Indian farmers is presented in the Second edition Status Report of Bt Cotton in India by APCoAB (Asia Pacific Consortium on Agriculture Biotechnology), published in 2009. Bt Cotton was approved through a rigorous governmental regulatory process. There is a lot of ongoing debate now for the release of another GMO food crop, Ex Egg plant.
East Africa should use the experience of India in adopting GMOs. Both yield enhancement and its stabilization are critical for feeding the global population, even more so in East Africa. It’s heartening to note that governments in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya are in process of formulating the regulatory procedures for the release of GMOs. However, a lot of negativity is observed in the media due to myths and the irrational approach of some NGOs. One needs to be clear about why there is this negativity. In my opinion, technology is getting opposed because of opposition to multinational corporations. Governments of these three nations need to evaluate whether the opposition to GMOs can be resolved provided they are released through the public sector as opposed to the private sector. The Green Revolution in India was witnessed through public-sector machinery (Indian council of Agriculture Research/State Agriculture Universities/National and State Seed Corporations) and now the second green/gene revolution is being experienced through the usage of technologies from the private sector.
Nirmal Seeds PLC Ethiopia is testing its cotton hybrids (Non GMO) in Ethiopia. They are performing well, through the Indian Germplasam base. During the process, I was pleased that the Ethiopian Government requested Nirmal Seeds try to release Bt Cotton in Ethiopia. However, regulatory procedures throughout East Africa need to be strengthened. I am sure that the experience of India can be best used and replicated in most East African nations. “Pathways to Productivity” can be one such effort to sensitize the issue.
Mr. Ashish Wele is President of Nirmal Seeds, India.