Rwanda to Start Testing GM Potato Verities
Rwanda is set to join other Eastern African countries in growing genetically modified (GM) Irish potato varieties, reports All Africa.
The announcement was made by dr. Patrick Karangwa, the director general of Rwanda’s Agriculture Board (RAB) during the African Potato Association (APA) meeting in Kigali that the country will try a potato variety called Victoria because it has proven to be resistant to late blight. The variety was developed by the International Potato Center (CIP).
The move comes after the country initiated enacting the law governing GM organisms last year. However, the law is yet to be passed.
Experts claim that adopting GM crops would help boost output and cushion farmers against losses stemming from disease. According to Eric Magembe, CIP’s sub-Saharan African molecular biologist, who was cited by the report, genetically modified potatoes can produce about 40 tons per hectare, compared to about 10 to 12 tons for the conventional variety though the later also requires spraying.
CIP says that late blight costs developing countries an estimated USD10bn in lost revenues through reduced yields.
While Africa is under pressure to produce more food to feed its growing population, genetically modified crops, which are seen as a solution, remain a controversial issue.
Karangwa said that although the technology remains under scrutiny in many African countries, including Rwanda, there are clear health and economic benefits. He disclosed that the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with other institutions is set to embark on research-oriented towards GM organisms for development.
“So, we need to get prepared in terms of testing (the Victoria potato variety) to ascertain its benefits and potential, as well as any problems it might have but also an effective regulatory framework so that we can take measures accordingly,” Karangwa concluded.