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GMO trials in Africa


GMO's for population

The UN has estimated the world population will be nine billion by 2050, which will require a 70 per cent increase of food production. With the threat of climate change, GMOs like drought-resistant crops may become increasingly necessary in the global demand for food.

Confined field trials of genetically modified maize will begin in Kenya and Uganda this year, the U.S.-based non-profit African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) said.

Scientists from Kenyan and Ugandan government research bodies, Monsanto (MON.N) and research body International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) developed the 12 varieties of Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) due to be planted.

Maize is the most widely grown staple food in Africa and is badly affected by drought. The scientists aim for the drought-resistant GM maize to increase yields by 24 to 35 percent.

"Everything we have seen in the simulated trials shows that we can safely test transgenic maize varieties in carefully controlled and confined field trials in Africa," James Gethi, the WEMA-Kenya country coordinator, said in a statement seen by Reuters late on Thursday.

Scientists conducted mock trials in simulated conditions in Kenya and Tanzania in 2009. The transgenic maize will now be planted in 1-2 hectare confined fields in Kenya and Uganda, which have already given regulatory approval.

The world's poorest continent, where agriculture contributes up to a quarter of GDP in some countries and is an important source of foreign exchange, is increasingly turning to genetically modified crops to bolster food supplies.


GM Safety

But critics and consumers, mostly in Africa and Europe, have questioned the safety of GM foods and have banned their import or cultivation due to fears they could harm humans and wildlife.

If the maize is approved, it will be licensed to AATF, which is funded by the United States and British governments.

"The expected WEMA transgenic drought-tolerant maize seed will be sub-licensed to local seed companies royalty-free for a term or duration to be determined based on future product deployment agreements," AATF Communications Officer Grace Wachoro said in a statement to Reuters.

"The confined field trials will enable the project to address safety issues."