Agricultural Biotechnology is Beneficial to Smallholder Farmers
By James Wachai
Anti-biotech activists are fond of casting genetically modified (GM)
crops as a domain for stinking-rich farmers. They have vainly tried to
ingrain in the minds of many that smallholder farmers have nothing to
gain from GM crops cultivation.
But a research published last month by Marnus Gouse and Johann Kirsten,
both of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, Carl Pray (Rutgers
University, U.S.A.), and David Schimmelpfennig (United States
Department of Agriculture Research Service), showed that smallholder
farmers in South Africa have benefited from genetically modified maize
cultivation, just like their large-scale counterparts.
Last week, Mexican researchers published yet another study that will
further reinforce the argument that agricultural biotechnology is
geared towards poor-resource farmers.
Octavio Guerrero-Andrade of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies
(CINVESTAV) in Guanajuato and colleagues, in their article in the online
edition of Transgenic Research, explain that a gene from the Newcastle
disease virus will be inserted into maize DNA. Chicken that eat the
genetically modified maize will produce antibodies against the
Newcastle disease virus.
There is no doubt that this new maize variety will be a big boon to
poultry farmers, especially in developing countries. They will no
longer worry about expensive vaccines.
Poultry farming is a common practice in many developing countries. In
many rural areas, whole families derive their livelihood from poultry
farming. In countries such as Nigeria and South Africa, poultry farming
plays an integral role in national development.
This new genetically modified maize, inarguably, will be the most
effective and convenient tool to control the Newcastle disease. The
existing vaccines for New Castle disease are out of reach of poor
farmers. These farmers live on less than a dollar a day. Such income
will be hardly enough to buy vaccines. Moreover, such vaccines require
refrigeration, yet electricity is non-existent in most rural areas.
Farmers in developing countries must go for the new genetically modified
maize. It will definitely boost their income.
James Wachai authors the blog GMO Africa (http://www.gmoafrica.org)