The National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) says Bt cotton – a genetically modified variety – has improved farmers’ yield by 100 percent.
Speaking in Lilongwe on Wednesday 30 March, 2022 at a media workshop, NCST Chief Research Services Officer, Lyson Kampira, said since the introduction of Biotech cotton, the yields for farmers who adopted the seed have been increased to 800 kgs per hectare from 400 kgs per hectare which is a big improvement.
“Cotton research biotechnology started in 2012 and today as we speak GM cotton produced through biotechnology has now reached farmers in Malawi. So the yields have been increased from 400 kgs per hectare to 800 kgs per hectare. Biotech cotton was introduced to reduce cost of production through reduced application of pesticides as it has resistance to some pests while producing more cotton fibre for improved yield,” said Kampira.
Kampira also noted that as NCST together with African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), they have an open forum for agriculture biotechnology and its objectives is to put in place measures in order to ensure that they create a platform where scientists and Journalists have an opportunity to discuss important information about technology and this is based on true facts which can help to promote biotechnology activities in the country.
“If we combine scientists and Journalists it means the true information that our scientists generate during their research can easily be communicated to the general masses and can be easily understood as you know journalists have that responsibility of transmitting information to the general public and scientists have that capability of creating new knowledge which is important. So we thought by bringing journalists for training of this nature we will be able to articulate facts which scientists are generating to the general public,” said Kampira.
In his remarks, a Senior Lecture in Biotechnology at LUANAR Bunda campus, Abel Sefasi, noted that biotechnology in agriculture has come to solve challenges that were being solved by other approaches but biotechnology works in efficient manner.
“Challenges facing agriculture include pests, insects, diseases and also weeds and even soil issues, soil fertility is a problem. So those problems have been solved in the past by getting a strong plant and a weak plant and crossing them to get a bit stronger, young ones that can grow in the soil, in the environment but sometimes you have challenges
“So biotechnology is the strength. You can now get the genes or the DNA which is the power from crops that are not related, you can put in these crops what you want. For example, maize in Malawi you can put the drought tolerant gene. At international level, Soya bean has been tolerant to herbicides but maize has been improved to be tolerant to insects, even rice has been improved to have high vitamin A.
“In Malawi, we had three main types of crops at experimental level. For banana we are having challenges in Malawi, as you know Malawi has been importing from Tanzania. So the research institution here started research to solve that problem to have banana that can resist banana virus, the disease that has devastated our crops in Thyolo, Nkhatabay and Chitipa,” said Sefasi.