But a local agricultural policy expert Roger Mpande says this has turned out to be a false start and Zimbabwe’s best bet is to stick to local knowledge systems and resources.
He says the health, environmental and social impact of GMOs cannot be underestimated.
Mpande – who spoke during a Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre knowledge brief for journalists in Harare last week on why Zimbabwe should refuse to licence the commercialisation of GMOs – says a look at the GM products leaves a lot to be desired.
“There is no drought-tolerant variety (among the GMOs), no vitamin enhancement, no medicinal traits and no yield increases,” he says.
Mpande, who works with the Zimbabwe Organic Producers and Promoters Association (Zoppa), says only two traits – herbicide tolerance and B toxin expression – have made it onto the market while only four crops have been commercialised. These are maize, soya beans, cotton and canola.
There has been extensive debates surrounding GMO issues in relation to organic farming in the country and Africa in particular and the subject of genetic modification has been contentious owing to various reasons. So much uncertainty still surrounds GMOs which can cause unpredictable health and environmental effects.
Zoppa Trust executive director Fortunate Nyakanda says her organisation is promoting organic agriculture which she defined as “a process that uses methods respectful of the environment from the production stages through handling and processing”.