Dr Peter Quandahor, an Entomologist, has stressed the need for the government to adopt Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops to help improve the productivity of farmers while reducing their cost of production.
He said GM crops were craftily engineered to meet a specific target including the crop’s resistance to pests and diseases, drought and to maximize its yield.
Dr Quandahor, who is with the Wa Office of the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-SARI), said the GM crops had the potential to improve the income of farmers but some farmers in the country were resisting it since GMO was a new technology and alien to them.
The adverse climate condition and erratic rainfall being experienced in the country in recent times, the emergence of strange crops pests, and diseases, and the high cost of agrochemicals had made it more imperative for the development and adoption of GM crops to meet the changing demands of farmers.
Talking about the potential benefit of the GM crops to the country, the entomologist said: “I will say we have even delayed (in adopting GM crops) because when you go to developed and developing countries they have started benefiting from this technology.”
Commenting on the GMO Bt cowpea, which had been developed by the CSIR-SARI pending release into the market, Dr. Quandahor said the crop, when released, would be resistant to the Maruca vitrata pest of cowpea and reduce the cost for farmers in controlling that pest.
“The only method of control (of Maruca vitrata) best known to farmers is the use of synthetic chemicals and research shows that the frequency of application of such pesticides is at least once a week throughout the two months lifespan of the crop on the field”, he explained.
He, however, said with the GM cowpea, the farmer required no or less spraying before harvest and said it would save the farmer the cost of the pesticide.
The Entomologist, therefore, expressed hope that the success of the GM Bt cowpea would pave way for the engineering of other GM crops such as maize to enable farmers derive the maximum yield from their sweat.
Genetic modification of plants involves inserting DNA into the genome of another plant’s cells to achieve a specific target.
This could include changing the way the plant grows or making it resistant to a particular disease, pest, or drought as well as improving the yield of the crop.
Research showed that aside from the GM crops being resistant to targeted conditions including drought and pests, it was also environmentally friendly, and could ensure food security and improve the farmer’s economic status.
According to a report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), Nigeria, Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa, Sudan, and Swaziland were the leading African countries that had adopted GM crops for cultivation with South Africa currently cultivating biotech maize, soybean and cotton.