Genetically engineered crops’ development taking roots in Ethiopia

By Mekonnen Teshome – The Ethiopian National Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center indicated that the development of Genetically Engineered Crops is taking momentous strides and hoped to advance agricultural productivity of the country.

Director of the Center, Dr. Leta Tulu, corroborated his assertion with the fact that, firstly, Genetically Engineered cotton (BT Cotton), insect resistant, is now being cultivated in Ethiopia after it was properly researched by the center and its environmental release is official approved by the government.

Secondly, all the preparation has been finalized for the environmental release of a drought and insect resistant Genetically Engineered maize variety and it is expected to be implemented soon.

Thirdly, the center is also widely conducting GE researches on soybean and has got certification from Environmental Protection Authority to introduce disease resistant potatoes as well as insect and pesticide resistance BT cotton for research purposes.

According to Dr. Leta, the research center will continue its monitoring and evaluation activities even after the environmental release of crops.

Indicating that the current global BT crop coverage has reached 200 million hectares, the Director insists on that Ethiopia need to seize this technological advancement.

Presently, the center is also undertaking its biotechnology researches under its three programs: – plant biotechnology, animal biotechnology and microbial biotechnology.

Dr. Leta indicated that the Genetic Engineering (GE) endeavors of the center aims at alleviating the various productivity challenges of the local agricultural products and carefully introduce other selected foreign engineered verities within the framework of the law of the land.

With regard to animal biotechnology research, we are doing researches related to animal health, fertility, breeding and genetics so as to achieve our goal of improving the the productivity of our local animal varieties through artificial insemination.

Concerning microbial biotechnology, we are undertaking intensive local microbes analysis so as to characterize, identify and conserve the various development advantages of them.

“Through our Microbial Biotechnology Research Program, we are studying on how we could apply microbes for food and animal fodder preparation as well as environmental protection purposes. To this end, we have identified the type of bacteria useful for speedy yogurt production, backing of the traditional “Enjera” and we have successfully studied how we could reduce the environmental pollution effect of microbes so far.”

As to Dr. Leta, despite the immense advantages of biotechnology and Genetically Engineered crops and animals, there are various misconceptions and lack of understanding the science among the society and this has to be changed and, added that, dissemination of scientific facts and information is vital to benefit out of he technology at the national level.

Concerning the propagation of scientific facts on biotechnology and addressing the misconceptions, the Director said that he is grateful for the extraordinary jobs the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) is doing in Africa through its national chapters including the Ethiopian OFAB which is vibrant on these matters.

The Center is one of the research centers of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR). Before the center was upgraded to a full-fledged research center level, it was a National Agricultural Biotechnology Laboratory (NABL). The Laboratory was established as an independent biotechnology research facility under the administration of Holeta Agricultural Research Center (HARC) in September 2010 and now organized under EIAR.