Disease-free seeds from biotech
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CTA. 2003. Disease-free seeds from biotech. Rural Radio Resource Pack 03/01.Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57461
When we talk about agricultural biotechnology, most people assume that we mean genetic modification - breeding new characteristics into plants and animals by manipulating their genes, sometimes even transferring genes from one species to another.
Cue: When we talk about agricultural biotechnology, most people assume that we mean genetic modification - breeding new characteristics into plants and animals by manipulating their genes, sometimes even transferring genes from one species to another. This kind of biotechnology has raised fears among some about the damage that may result to the environment or to human health. However, other technologies are less controversial. For example, certain tissue culture techniques are already being used in African countries to genetically clean up planting material, such as seeds. In Kenya the National Federation of Agricultural Producers is involved in a project to supply clean planting material for traditional food crops in a number of pilot districts. The Federation?s Chief Executive, Mercy Karanja, explained to Eric Kadenge why she feels this kind of biotechnology is of great importance to small scale farmers. IN: ?Biotechnology is a science ?? OUT: ?? suffered very many problems.? DUR?N 4?04? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Mercy Karanja of the Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers. Transcript Karanja Biotechnology is a science like any other and there is a place for science in our life so we must emphasise that biotechnology is trying to solve and give us solutions to some niche problems which we have. For example in the area of bananas, we had a lot of problems with nematodes. We couldn't get cleaning planting materials for bananas, so biotechnology has come in and given us a solution. So there is a space for biotechnology which is very critical and we have seen a lot of assistance especially to the small scale farmers through clean seed provision. That?s the main thing we have seen this far Kadenge Other than bananas, do you have any other examples of crops that are being improved through the use of biotechnology? Karanja Yes, we've done a lot of work in the sweet potato vines in Kakamega, improving the nutritive value of sweet potatoes and since it?s a staple food for the people in that region of this country, its very important that we are able to improve. That has happened and we are very grateful about that. There's also work on drought resistant maize and also maize that is also resistant to streak virus. I think these are some of the greatest breakthroughs we would ever be able to have in this country. Kadenge Have you been able to get some of the feelings from the farmers about these whole developments? Karanja Everything that has been done has come from the farmers. It was a study that was done. We went and found out what are the critical problems which are affecting farmers in different regions, and what was done is the key thing that the farmer requested. For example, the banana problem: the bananas were being wiped out by nematodes and now you can see livelihoods being transformed. So we have really documented very exciting cases. Exciting cases especially of bananas, citrus, cassava, and this is food for people, besides an income as food for the households. So all this work has been documented and we are very glad to see the kind of impact it has on the ground. Kadenge Now if I was a small-scale farmer wondering if I should at all consider using some of these products, what reasons would you give me to do so? Karanja I would only say where you have a real critical problem like you don't have good clean seed to plant for example like for cassava, go for what is available. It has been cleansed and the kind of biotechnology we are talking about is really the traditional biotechnology of tissue culture. It's not like developing a whole new plant all together, which is going on in other parts of the world. We are still very basically at the traditional level where it is not highly risky to develop the plants out of their own tissues. So we can't say we will not use biotechnology like has been tried to be done by some of the groups. We are saying, let us use it where we need it. We need our traditional seeds, we need biotechnology to solve these very peculiar problems we have of disease and drought, of unclean planting materials. So let?s get what we can use now and allow the scientists to continue doing research, to see whether there are some other side effects. Kadenge Is there anything else that you would like to add? Karanja Yes I would really urge our scientists to continue giving us the information because that is what is the problem. If the farmers are not informed and given the whole spectrum of information, then they are bound to be vulnerable to other people coming with different gospels. But what we need to be armed with is information of where we are, where we are going and what is happening. There's a lot more biotechnology going on in this country, let it be out there for public consumption so that people can be able to dialogue concerning it very honestly and very seriously. If we can have solutions for our traditional foods, that is what we need to build in this country so that people can have their sorghums and their millets and their cassavas and their sweet potatoes on the table. Then we are able to develop the agricultural sector which has suffered very many problems. End of Track.