HomeNewsAgriculture ministry grilled over GMOs adoption

Agriculture ministry grilled over GMOs adoption

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PARLIAMENT yesterday grilled Agriculture permanent secretary Ringson Chitsiko over government’s refusal to adopt genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and BT Cotton production.

VENERANDA LANGA
SENIOR PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER

Chitsiko and Grain Marketing Board (GMB) general manager Albert Mandizha were quizzed over the issue when they appeared before two joint Parliamentary committees — the Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture and the Thematic Committee on Millenium Development Goals — where they were also questioned about the $51 million Chinese loan to rehabilitate GMB silos.

Chitsiko told the two committees that government was being cautious on policies to allow GMOs and BT Cotton because there was need for further research on their repercussions, but Lobengula legislator Samuel Sipepa Nkomo (MDC-T) said government’s rigidity was uncalled for as scientists from Zimbabwe had proved they were harmless.

“Farmers are abandoning cotton because of prudence in policies by government, and who will die in Zimbabwe for using BT cotton?” Nkomo asked
“Why are you so rigid to the extent you are not even allowing trials. You should allow for stakeholder discussions over the issue so that Zimbabweans decide on what they want.”

Bindura South legislator Remigious Matangira (Zanu PF) added: “We are already eating imported cooking oil from BT cotton seed from South Africa, and cattle are also eating BT cotton cake and why the rigidity?”

Chitsiko maintained countries that had adopted GMOs were now regretting the move, but MPs could not have it saying he should allow for research and dialogue on the issue.

Chairman of the committee Mbire MP David Butau (Zanu PF) quizzed Chitsiko and GMB over the Chinese loan saying it was an expensive loan where GMB will have to pay $13,3 million per year, adding the pair should explain why part of the loan amount was going towards purchase of vehicles.

According to the specifics of the $51 million Chinese loan a deposit of $7,6 million was required to allow the programme to commence, an establishment fee of $1,1 million to be paid at the same time as the deposit, and a repayment scheme of $6,9 million over six months.

Mandizha said from the $51 million, about $31 million will be for silo rehabilitation, $13 for heavy duty trucks, and $7 million for ICTs.

He said all these were necessary because government owed $12 million in transport fees to indigenous companies for the grain loan scheme.

On the summer crop preparedness Chitsiko said the biggest hassle would be availability of fertiliser, adding they have allowed farmers to import it.

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