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Nampula: Agricultural Research Institute About to Release Genetically Modified Maize

Nampula: Agricultural Research Institute About to Release Genetically Modified Maize

Mozambique’s Agricultural Research Institute (IIAM) is about to release genetically modified maize varieties, marking a 16-year research process.

The director-general of the IIAM, Zélia Menete, revealed this information on Tuesday (16) in the province of Nampula, northern Mozambique, and said that the only thing missing is authorisation from the competent authorities.

“What we’re trying to do here is improve various crops. In the case of maize, we already have these varieties ready to release into the environment, but this now depends on Mozambique’s National Biosafety Authority in the Ministry of Science and Technology. We’ve already submitted the reports and we’re waiting for approval to release these varieties into the environment,” he said.

The source said that the trials were conducted in the district of Chókwè, Gaza province, Lichinga, (Niassa) and Ribáuè, (Nampula) with varieties that showed different performance, given the agro-ecological conditions of these places, but with the potential to achieve a yield per hectare of around four to five tonnes of maize, rather than one tonne as is currently the case.

The development of the new varieties, according to the source, seeks to respond to the problems of low maize yields often raised by the producers themselves.

“At a national level we’re around 900 kilos or one tonne per hectare, while other countries in our region produce five, eight or ten tonnes per hectare. Research has shown that the main limitations are attacks by diseases and pests on the maize, low rainfall and the availability of certified seed for the farmer to work with,” he said.

However, Menete doesn’t rule out the possibility of commercial farmers with a stronger financial footprint opting to continue using non-genetically modified varieties.

Regarding criticism of the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the IIAM director-general defends the need to balance the advantages. In fact, products with these characteristics have already been consumed in Mozambique for several years.

“We’re not an island, there are many other countries that are on the same path, so we want to find solutions to improve yields, increase productivity per hectare instead of producing one tonne, we want to reach ten.”

Menete also explained that the research is looking at the aspects that contribute to climate change.

“Reducing deforestation, the use of pesticides that harm the environment, with climate change, we’re going to have erratic rainfall and at the moment we’re facing, in addition to the El Niño phenomenon, drought,” he elaborated.

He concluded by saying that “these varieties and others that are more resilient can ensure that Mozambique, southern Africa, is no longer dependent on modified imports”.

Genetically modified organisms and foods are plants, animals or microbes whose genome (DNA) has been modified using genetic engineering to favour the expression of desired characteristics or the generation of desired biological products.

In Mozambique there is a biosafety regulation on the management of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which takes into account health and environmental risks, as well as the control of commercial issues.

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