Local matooke. Kawanda researchers have bred a transgenic banana which is resistant to the virulent bacteria wilt
Jerome Kubiriba, the team leader, National Banana Research Programme at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories, Kawanda has said that banana scientists at the institute will be the first to taste the GM bananas being developed at the institute.
Speaking to New Vision at the Institute recently Kuburiba said being the first to eat the bananas will assure Ugandans that the bananas are safe
“We are putting an application to Uganda National Council for Science and Technology early next year for farmers to taste. They cannot grow what they have not tasted,” he explained. “But we will be the first one to eat.”
He said they had followed international established regulations in the development of the transgenic crop.
Breeders at Kawanda have bred a transgenic banana resistant to the virulent banana bacteria wilt using genetic engineering.
They have also enhanced the matooke with Vitamin A that is mostly deficient in women of reproductive age and children.
Kubiriba said they will soon do multi- location evaluations of the banana after the passing of the National Biosafety Bill. They will be carried in Mbarara, Hoima and Mbale.
Parliament passed the bill in October.
Dr Godfrey Asea, the director at the National Crops Resources Research Institute NaCRRI Namulonge, and a researcher in transgenic maize concurred with Kubiriba and said they would also be the first to taste.
“And we have enough data for application,” he said. “Yes, it is maize we have been eating in South Africa and the U.S.”
Asea has been working on a transgenic maize resistant to the stem borer using genetic engineering as well as maize tolerant to drought.
These have been affecting maize productivity in the country.
The issue of safety is one of the issue usually raised by critics of the technology who also allege that the scientists are sponsored by American biotech multi-nationals. Tasting by the scientists is likely to assure the critics that their motive is noble.
The technology is mainly used to breed against pests and diseases, enhance nutrition value and adapt to weather vagaries like drought.