HARARE – Zimbabwe has maintained that it will not embrace genetically modified organisms (GMO) technology despite the country facing imminent hunger threats.
More than 2,2 million of the southern African country’s 13 million people will need food assistance this year according to statistics from the United Nations World Food Programme.However, Joseph Made, the recently re-appointed minister of Agriculture and Mechanisation this week said he will not allow GMO into the country for the purposes of agricultural production.
“We have to protect our own seed, this is why we are putting our efforts into our seed houses,” he said.This comes as GMO was banned in Zimbabwe in 2006 even though perennial droughts have sparked debate as to whether government should not allow its importation to address food shortage challenges. To help avert hunger in the coming months government has instead concentrated on making available fertilizer, seeds, irrigation and other essential farm inputs to boost food production through availing a $161 million farming inputs support facility that will benefit at least 1,6 million households in the forthcoming 2013-14 agricultural season.
Zimbabwe has in the past raised concerns over the use of cheaper but unsustainable GMO food production which has a detrimental impact on the environment. However, Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector has been on a serious decline since the turn of the millennium and the country has been failing to feed itself when it embarked on a chaotic land reform programme aimed at redressing the colonial land imbalances. Analysts say the country requires more than $1 billion in agricultural funding to ensure it reclaims its erstwhile status as the bread basket of sub-Saharan Africa.
This comes as Zimbabwe is facing acute grain shortages, owing to poor harvests experienced in the past seasons. The ministry of Agriculture’s second crop assessment report indicates that only 798 600 metric tonnes (mt) of maize were harvested in the 2013 season compared to the 968 000 metric tonnes that were harvested in 2012. This is against a national requirement of 1,8 million mt.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) in its August monthly economic review said although government made efforts to close this huge food deficit of 1 001 400 mt by importing 150 000 mt of maize from Zambia, the deficit would be difficult to fill as there are not enough grain reserves to close the gap. This is despite the fact that the Grain Millers Association had committed to import up to 160 000 mt to augment government’s efforts. Recently re-appointed Agriculture and Mechanisation minister Joseph Made.