Tanzania’s first ever GMO field trial: Drought-tolerant, insect-resistant corn ‘shows promising results’

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Researchers show Mark Lynas around the field trial site. (Photo: Hannah Smith Walker, Cornell Alliance for Science)

Tanzania’s first-ever genetically-modified crop trial was planted only a 30-minute drive from the capital.

A year ago the Tanzanian government relaxed the previous “strict liability” biosafety regime which had de-facto prevented any plant scientists from testing genetically engineered crops outside the lab. The “confined field trial” (CFT) we are about to visit is the result: the first-ever “GMO” outdoor trial in the country.

Mark Lynas under the signs at the entrance to the CFT, at Makutupora, Dodoma. (Photo: Hannah Smith Walker, Cornell Alliance for Science)

The biosafety regulations are irksome, not least because genetically modified maize of the same type is already being widely distributed and commercially grown in neighboring South Africa.

[T]he rationale for the project — to breed hybrid maize seeds genetically engineered with a gene to help them tolerate water-stress during the all-important flowering and seed-filling stage — is obvious to everyone. Conventionally bred drought-tolerant maize is already being distributed to farmers under the trade name “Drought TEGO.” But the GM variety — genetically “stacked” with the insect-resistance Bt gene, as well as the conventional drought trait — could be a game-changer in improving the resilience of smallholder farmers to droughts aggravated by climate change.

“From the general appearances, we think the genetically modified drought-tolerant hybrids are going to do better than the non-genetically modified,” [WEMA’s Tanzania technical advisor, Dr. Alois Kullaya] tells me.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Visiting Tanzania’s first-ever GMO crop trial