Alliance against genetic technology in Tanzania

Alliance against genetic technology in Tanzania

In Tanzania, resistance is mounting against the introduction of genetically modified plants in agriculture. Until now, the country’s agricultural sector has been free of genetic technology but considerable pressure is being put on the Tanzanian government by the US and international agricultural firms and lobbyists are pushing for the regulatory bodies to relax their rules on biosafety, and by so doing remove the barriers to genetically modified plants being authorised. The authorities overseeing the Tanzanian cotton industry have announced their plan to introduce genetically modified cotton.

Organic farmers under threat

Approximately 100,000 organic farmers in the country are especially concerned for their survival because in countries where genetic technology has been in use for many years, experience shows that organic cultivation offers no reliable long-term protection from contamination due to genetically modified plants. In Canada, for example, it is now virtually impossible to produce organic rapeseed. In India, organic cotton farmers are battling with the mix of genetically modified cotton with their organically grown product. As a result, their cotton can no longer be sold as organic.

Pressure from genetic researchers

A research institute funded by the British and US governments with the remit of developing a genetically modified corn variety may allegedly already be conducting field trials in Tanzania. Tests are also being carried out with genetically modified manioc. Research teams are complaining about restrictions being too tight and have requested a loosening of the legislation in place to safeguard biodiversity. Both corn and manioc are important basic foodstuffs in Africa.

Alliance turns proactive

A few weeks ago an alliance was formed to resist the massive pressure to start using genetically modified plants. Members of the alliance, including SWISSAID, are demanding that the precautionary principle continues to be the basis of biosafety legislation. In other words, the introduction of genetic technology in agriculture will continue to be prohibited as long as the risks to humans and the environment are unable to be ruled out entirely. The alliance believes that biodiversity in particular would be under threat, especially the traditional plant varieties. The introduction of genetically modified plants or animals will not help the country solve its problem of feeding the population.