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Biotechnologists Want Feeding Trials For GMO Bananas Conducted

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Biotechnology researchers are calling for the first human testing of the Genetically Modified (GMO) banana enhanced with Vitamin A conducted.

The researchers claim all other tests have been done only awaiting human feeding trials.

The research was done to improve the nutrition of bananas by adding vitamin A which is very vital for the health and growth of children.

“It is this final stage that is remaining and we are hoping for the final guidance to let the bananas be tested so that farmers can start growing it,” said Arthur Makara, the Coordinator of Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium (UBBC) at the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST).

He revealed that scientists have applied to the International Biosafety committee to allow the testing of the food, but it is still reluctant to give them ago ahead for a few volunteers to test the food.

Soon or later, he said a public call will be put forward for those willing to be part of the testing once the National Biosafety committee guides the process.

“Am willing to be part of the volunteers to test the food, because it has the same texture but with a high nutrition content and Uganda National Bureau of Standard proved it,” he said.

He called upon the National Biosafety Committee to expedite the process of guiding the scientists, saying the work on banana and brown steak virus resistance casava is complete, requiring the scientists to move forward.

“Scientists are thinkers of the country and must be supported to demonstrate the work they have done and how it brings a change other than putting a barrier between them and the beneficiaries,” he said.

Makara was speaking during the Biotechnology and biosafety training workshop for Agricultural production, extension officers and some selected farmers at Mbarara Zonal Agricultural Research Development Institute (Mba ZARDI).

The workshop attended by officers from western districts of Mbarara, Ibanda, Bushenyi, Rwampara, Sheema, Kazo, Ntungamo and Mbarara city among others was aimed at showing the progress made in biotechnology and sensitising farmers and preparing them to receive the bananas.

Jimmy Tindamanyire, the senior research officer at National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL) Kawanda, also part of the team addressing hidden hunger, said the science of biotechnology has helped in introducing Vitamin A into the local variety of Nakitembe and M9.

He, however, said that failure to approve the necessary regulations will create discomfort for the potential consumers and scientists who are the developers of the technology.

He expressed worry that genetic engineering may be overrun by events as new technologies keep coming over.

He observed that in GMO bananas, there is no reduced size and according to the western agro-ecological zones, the GMO banana has proved itself to suit the environment.

Asuman Kigongo, the Ntungamu district vice chairperson said, as one of the growing matooke districts, malnutrition has been one of the challenges faced.

“If the scientists have developed this matooke with vitamin A to enhance proper children’s growth, we must embrace it. Science is the way to go and we must change the perception of people towards biotechnology,” he said.

Parliament passed the Biosafety Bill into law awaiting the president to sign, however, scientists claim this has over delayed.

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