Editorial: More debate needed regarding GMOs

As the global furore over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) gets louder and louder, Rwanda has not been left behind in the debate at a time when food security is on top of the agenda.

As the global furore over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) gets louder and louder, Rwanda has not been left behind in the debate at a time when food security is on top of the agenda.

Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA) has drafted a law regulating GMO, which is now under review by the Rwanda Law Reform Commission.

The debate has always been on the safety of modifying natural organisms to meet human needs, and even though it has been in our midst for decades, to many, it is still uncharted territory.

Pioneers of the science have met both acclaim and nervous condemnations. Those in support point at the advantages of increasing yields that are also resistant to disease.

But the other side is more cautious and suspicious. They argue that the world is putting the future of food security in the hands of a few powerful research multinationals who will end up holding all the production cards.

They add that indigenous seeds and animals could get extinct and the far reaching effects on humans, such as the increase of cancer and other non-communicable diseases, should be ringing alarm bells as research on the subject is still ongoing.

There is no doubt that biotechnology has played an important role in improving health and livelihoods, but authorities should also have an ace up their sleeves to counter any negative fallout by rolling out products that are still the subject of heated scientific debates.

Rwanda has done well to tread carefully as regards GMO. The draft legislation should not be hurried but be informed by wider scientific findings so as to protect its people and indigenous plants and animals.

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