Tag Archives: Local farmers’ interests

A renowned geneticist and agronomist cautions against Ethiopia adopting GMO crops

4 Jun

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

“Can we adopt GM technology here? It could be done in uniform topographic such as Canada and the US prairies, he said, adding, “but here in a country like Ethiopia, in a small-scale farming area that does not even cover one kilometer and the character of the soil and air varies, it would be practically impossible,” Dr. Melaku Werede said.

A renowned Ethiopian geneticist and agronomist has cautioned against the adoption of a genetically modified (GM) variety, saying that it could pose a serious threat to the tremendous genetic and biological diversity of the country. Dr. Melaku Worede, a plant geneticist and former Director of the Ethiopian Plant Genetic Resources Centre, said that any move to improve the agricultural inputs of the country should take into account the interests and desires of local farmers who have been maintaining and adapting their indigenous crop resources for centuries, and should not be imposed in a top-down fashion, he said in an interview with TechTalk With Solomon, a weekly technology TV show on Ethiopian Broadcasting Service (EBS).

Geneticist and agronomist Dr. Melaku Werede (Credit: Ethiopia Observer)

Melaku, 84, said that the preservation of indigenous seed varieties which he said are not only cost-effective for farmers but was the most sustainable way to develop agriculture should be an utmost priority. “Attempts to improve agricultural outputs should be done in collaboration with farmers, not by imposing it upon them. Let us explore the genes that we have on the ground first and make good use of it. Knowledge system and the material go hand in hand, he said.

“It is too risky to rely on seeds that have no local adaptation and built-in genetic diversity. Farmers should rather be helped to improve the genetic performance of crops than to be dictated to buy costly GM seeds.  In the context it is being developed and used, GMOs has a danger. It is a double-edged sword. “Let us be careful not to be a basket case,” he told the interviewer. “From the farmer’s point view, the yield was not the only criterion, farmers place also importance to diversity in seasons, topography, taste, specific harvest that could be used for specific cultural activities, and a number of things. For farmers, sustainability is an important criterion. They have developed the strategy to spread the risk between factors of season, location, and diversity.  So their varieties will have enough plasticity to allow them to grow in diverse conditions.” he said.

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