With Burundi law prohibiting the importation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), experts have warned that lack of proper equipment may see GMOs imported in the country.
On October 8th, 2022 Burundi received a batch of 120 tonnes of PAN 53 maize seed. However Willy Irakoze a Research director at the Burundi Institute of Agronomic Science (ISABU) deplores the absence of equipment capable of detecting the entrance of GMOs. Calling for solution and ways to protect the lives of Burundians and the environment.
According to the Burundian government a batch of 120 tonnes of very productive PAN 53 maize seed were received at Kobero border in Muyinga Province from Zambia at the request of the population, while another six hundred tons are on the way.
“The GMO is not eligible in Burundi but what is worrying is that at the border or at the airport we do not have equipment and personnel capable of detecting if it is the GMO that is entering or not. So it is difficult to say that there are no GMOs in Burundi,” he bemoaned.
Mr. Willy Irakoze admitted that hybrid corn is more profitable in terms of production than composite maize and that the certified hybrid corns can contribute to the change of farmers’ life, “because they are 3 to four times more profitable in terms of production than Composite maize.” he said.
Government currently imports the PAN 53 maize seed while some local companies produces the Longe 7 H seeds, the type of certified corn in Burundi that meets the same characteristics as PAN 53 in terms of production.
“I do understand their worries, for instance PAN 53 and Longe 7 H have approximately the same yield capacity of 11 tonnes per hectare. But the PAN 53 is way more expensive per kilogram as it cost 8250 BIF yet the Longe 7H cost around 4,000 BIF. However what they do not know is that SITRACO cannot satisfy the internal market because it produces only 700 tonnes per year so let them understand that PAN 53 is coming to fill the gap,” said the ISABU director Willy Irakoze.
According to the agriculturalists neither PAN 53 nor Longe 7H are GMOs.
“As mentioned earlier, they are hybrids which means that they have been selected because they meet desirable characteristics, such as disease resistance….
GMO means that before Cross breeding it, we import the gene from an organism (another species) other than maize or simply we import the gene from an animal and we inject it into the corn,” said Mr. Irakoze.
“It is urgent for the government to strengthen the institutions that control quarantine, so that imported food is subjected to analysis in well-equipped laboratories but also with personnel who also have the necessary means and capacities required,” he added.
According to ISABU Burundi should invest in the establishment of laboratories and capacity building on the plant protection department and the Burundian Bureau of Standardization (BBN).
“First of all You must ensure that biosafety has been well controlled, this means that after injecting a GMO from another organism into a plant such as corn, it can cause metabolites that are very harmful to human health. These metabolites produced must be checked before releasing them to be sure at a 100% that there is no negative impact on human health or the environment,” said the ISABU research director.
It should be noted that 21 varieties of hybrid corn have so far been homologated in Burundi including the PAN 53, the Longe 7h.