May 4, 2009

Uganda: Scientific Intervention is the Future of Agriculture

Joshua Kato - Washington,USA

Kampala — BIOTECHNOLOGY is a system where bioscience is used on research to identify better yielding crops that resist certain diseases and separate other diseases that attack crops.

"The use of biotechnology eases the process of solving problems that would have taken years to solve," says Dr. Andrew Kiggundu, the head of the biotechnology centre at Kawanda. Experts in bioscience are located at key research centres in Uganda, including Kawanda and Namulonge.

Being a new system in Uganda, however, it is still dogged by beliefs that, experts say, are misconceived.

"All the misconceptions about biotechnology are not true. I have been in this field for many years. I have eaten foods that have been generated this way, but I do not have trees growing over my head," Dr. Arinaitwe, who is in charge of adding vital nutrients to matooke, says.

Dr. Arinaitwe says bananas are the most consumed food in Uganda, although they lack vital elements like Vitamin A and iron. In using biotechnology, bananas can be fortified with these major growth elements.

Dr. Titus Alicai maintains that, had it not been for biotechnology, the fight against a range of viruses ravaging crops across the country would have been much slower.

In the last 30 years, viruses have attacked coffee, cassava, bananas and other crops. Between 1993 and 1999, cassava was almost wiped out of the country by the cassava mosaic virus.

"But this process (biotechnology) helps scientists split and identify the exact viruses that are disturbing crops," he says.

The process may involve picking plant cells from one crop species and mixing it with cells from another crop species to create a better product.

Under the banana fortification project, cells from crops rich in vitamins and iron are mixed with banana cells to create a banana that is rich in vitamins and iron.

The public must be sensitised about the advantages of agricultural biotechnology for the programmes to succeed.

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