Africa Debate on GE Cotton Heats Up

Africa Debate on GE Cotton Heats Up

Scientist Disagree on Biotech Cotton

February 13, 2002
Africa News
(Via AGnet)

Research scientists are, according to this story, divided on whether
to import genetically modified cotton planting materials for farmers.
The story says that at a recent biotechnology symposium attended
by policy makers, business community and research scientists in
Kampala, some researchers said Uganda risks losing its European
market if the farmers started planting the BT(biogenetically improved
cotton) cotton. The story says that the National Agricultural Research
Organisation( NARO) last year applied to Monsanto, a US-based
company to supply the BT cotton seeds to Uganda. NARO
through its cotton research institute at Serere, Soroti district was to
carry out further trials on the cotton before releasing it to the farmers.
The tests were to seek among others, BT cotton's adaptability to local
climate and also other ecological implications. Monsanto has appointed
a local representative to foresee the project. Prof. Joseph Mukiibi, the
NARO director general defended the BT cotton. He said it holds the future
for Uganda's cotton industry because it is high yielding. BT cotton,
unlike the ordinary varieties has strong resistance against cotton borers.
Prof. Rubahihayo from Makerere University's Faculty of agriculture said
that BT cotton has a gene which produces a chemical that kills the eggs and
larvae of the borers before penetrating the ball. However, the chemical may
not be effective against other pests and diseases of cotton. He said it does
not have terminator characteristics. "Let's be careful when handling the
BT cotton issue not to harm our cotton sector," he said. Cotton is one
of the leading traditional cash crops.

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