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Uganda considering GM crops for food security solution

Uganda could be close to legitimising GM crops in order to boost production in the country, according to the Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium

According to the consortium, a bill is under consideration by the government after the successful introduction of GM crops in India, South Africa, Egypt and Burkino Faso.

"Ongoing trials on bananas, cassava, maize, cotton and potatoes are promising and once licensed, GM crops have the potential to give Ugandans food security while widening the export base," scientists at National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO) said.

The crops have been selected because of their potential to improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers who cannot participate in capital intensive farming in many parts of the country.

The modified crops, according to scientists, are resistant to drought and are not easily affected by pests and diseases.

Cassava brown streak virus would have no effect on modified cassava, while the corn would be resistant to drought, cotton to bollworm and bananas to wilting, NARO said.

"If things go as planned, we expect commercial GM cotton in 2014, cassava 2016 and drought resistant maize by 2017," said the organisation in a statement. 

Uganda has been slow to adopt GM crops commercially over fears of its effects on humans, bio-diversity of indigenous crops and the environment.