By Ndafadza Madanha
GOVERNMENT is currently reviewing its GMO policy with expectations that at some stage the use of GMO seeds in the country will be adopted and help spur productivity.
While globally genetically modified crops have spurred productivity and food security the Government has not been keen on embracing them citing health and environmental reasons.
However, Zimbabwe quest to ratify the Harmonisation of Seed Regulatory Framework in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) has rekindled debate on whether the country embraces genetically modified seeds.
Speaking in the House of Assembly last month during debate on the treaty minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi said ratifying the SADC seed regulatory framework will not immediately change Government current policy on genetically modified cropping.
“Madam Speaker as Zimbabwe, we have not yet revised our policy in terms of GMO seeds or products, but there are on-going discussions with a view of ensuring that perhaps at a later date, we may consider them. This agreement what it is simply doing is to ensure that we harness all the seeds that are in the SADC region and they become available to all the member states. In essence, this is what this framework is going to give effect to. It is very beneficial to us and it will ensure that we will not have shortages because we will be part of the SADC community and we will access the variety of seeds that are available for us to procure”.
On the global stage concerns have arisen on the long-term effects of such GM crops on the farming landscape as GM they often mingle with organic crop varieties in harmful ways.
The practice of monocropping, or raising one crop only on a given plot of land, has also proven to be damaging to soil over extended periods of time.
Additionally, the motives of large agricultural companies involved in the GM farming of Africa are far from clear-cut aid.
Despite these concerns local analysts who spoke to agrinews said it was surprising that Zimbabwe was lagging behind other countries that had adopted genetically modified crops yet it was one of the first countries to experiment with the GMCs.
“I think it should be relooked and aligned with Comesa and Sadc guidelines. While the law forbids the growing of GM crops, the ironic thing is we are eating the very GM foods every day.
Most imported processed foods we eat daily are made from GM crops especially from South Africa and there are no laws on labelling.
GM fruits are also smuggled into the country daily and we eat them, so at the end of the day the ban only succeeds in rendering the local industry uncompetitive and this tilts the playing field. Instead of banning growing of genetically modified crops we should be looking at healthy ways of implementing it in the country.
We were amongst the first country in Africa to experiment with GM crops but somehow we lost away,” said economic analyst Clemence Machadu
According to Wandile Sihlobo an agricultural economist and head of agribusiness research at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) in South Africa soya bean production in the country has grown significantly since the dawn of democracy, from 67 700 tonnes in the 1993/94 production season to 1.6 million tonnes in 2017/18.
He said the growth was attributable to the adoption of genetically modified seeds (GM) in the early 2000’s which continues to spread across the country. In the 2016/17 production season, GM seed constituted roughly 95% of South Africa’s soybean plantings.
Additionally the success is not unique to South Africa, the world’s leading soybean producers such as the US, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Canada and Uruguay all grow GM soybeans. In fact, about 75% of global soybean production in the 2016/17 production season was GM.