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NUCAFE: National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises

Many Ugandans are opposed to the idea of farmers repeatedly buying seeds to plant. It is one of their main reasons for opposing biotechnology products—hybrid seed, bio-fortified beans, bio-fortified sweet potato vines, tissue-culture banana plantlets —to mention but a few. "The farmers should be spared the burden of purchasing seed and instead encouraged to save seed from their previous harvests," many say.

According to a document, Science-Based Improvements of Rural/Subsistence Agriculture, prepared by Academy of Science of South Africa (Assaf), Africa's crop production is the lowest in the world at 1.7 tonnes per hectare compared to 4.0 tonnes per hectare, which is the global average.

We are criticised for not planting high yielding crop varieties, not applying sufficient fertilisers and failing to control pests and diseases.

The African farmer should not unnecessarily stick to traditional agricultural practices in a world undergoing climate change when we are experiencing harsher weather patterns and new pests and diseases.

We also have food security issues given our rapidly growing population, which has resulted in land fragmentation and soil degradation. Our children are undernourished due to lack of recommended nutrients in the diets.

Most people (more than 70 per cent) depend on agriculture as their source of income. It is also a major source of foreign currency earnings. So, we must increase production.
The government has set up agricultural research organisations and research stations to address our farming problems. It would, therefore, be unwise to reject seed or any biotechnology products from these research stations just because we must stick to our traditional ways of preserving seed for use in the next planting season.

The seed varieties are bred to be more yielding, resistant to disease or drought tolerant. Some such as Quality Protein Maize was prepared to provide more nutrition and to combat malnutrition. So are some cassava and banana varieties. Bio-fortified bean and sweet potato varieties contain nutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamin C, which World Health Organisation recommends as essential for healthy living.

From Daily Monitor

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