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Uganda to introduce genetically engineered banana

Stored under Caption This!GamesMiscellaneousNewsRecipesRelated EBay AuctionsReviewsVideosVisual Stimulation on February 22, 2007

Uganda could soon introduce genetically modified bananas after a successful genetically engineered sweet banana variety proved resistant to pests and diseases.

The technology will improve the quality of banana, an important food and cash crop whose production has declined due to diseases, especially the banana wilt disease. Genetically engineered bananas will also contribute to food security and improve household incomes. Almost 24.5 per cent of Ugandan household’s income is contributed by bananas. Some 70 per cent of farmers grow them as a staple food as well as for brewing local liquor.

Scientists estimate that if the technology is applied to other varieties, the country could save up to $8 billion it is said to have earmarked in the next five years for fighting the banana bacterial wilt disease. The disease is currently ravaging the country and spreading to Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.

The genetically engineered variety was developed by Geoffrey Arinaitwe, a Ugandan scientist based in Belgium who has now applied to the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) for a permit to import it to Uganda.

“The Council has already cleared it for field testing after importation from Belgium. This innovation will pave the way for research on other varieties to make them resistant to diseases,” said Arthur Makara, the biosafety desk officer at the Council, the country’s leading institution for science, technology and innovation development.

The tested banana type will be brought to the Kawanda Research Institute (Kari), which has just completed construction of a greenhouse to field test bananas for resistance to bacterial wilt and black sigatoka fungal disease, said Andrew Kiggundu, a plant biotechnologist at Kari. The bacterial wilt is highly destructive, wiping out at least 90 per cent of the fruit on the trees it affects. When it affects a tree, it becomes poisonous to both humans and animals.

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