Ethiopia approves trials with GMO potatoes
Ethiopia has given the green light to carry out observation field trials for genetically modified potatoes that are said to be resistant to blight, a move seen as a further sign of the country’s growing embrace of the controversial genetic modification technology.
The approval by the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority weeks ago gives the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) permission to plant the potatoes in a confined trial farming area.
Ethiopia’s deregulatory plans around GMO crops focus on gene editing, a type of genetic modification that is heavily restricted in the European Union countries. However, the GM potatoes project has been pushed in Africa by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Potato Center (CIP). CIP is the research center within the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), stated as working to help African countries, among others, develop GM potatoes. Ethiopia, Uganda, and Rwanda have already joined CIP as members.
Genetically modified potatoes that resist “late blight” were developed by the German chemicals group BASF. The disease led to famine in Ireland during the 19th century and still causes about 20 percent of potato harvest losses in the world, the company says.
With the latest development, the potato has become the third consumable GMO product to be authorized in Ethiopia for commercial production. So far, a permit has been granted for maize and Enset (false banana), to Bt cotton.
Genetically modified crops lead to heated public debate, with some questioning their supposed miraculous solutions to food security problems.