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Rwanda’s Minister Mujawamariya Embraces GMOs with Caution and Potential Benefits

The Minister of Environment, Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, has expressed the Rwandan government’s support for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that can bring tangible benefits to the nation. However, she stressed the importance of being adequately prepared to address any potential adverse consequences of biotechnology.

Following the Lower Chamber of Parliament’s approval of a draft law governing biosafety on August 1, the proposed legislation aims to manage the risks associated with GMOs, safeguard biodiversity, and protect the environment.

GMOs encompass genetically engineered crops and other living organisms, including livestock animals. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), GMO crops are those that have genes inserted from the same or unrelated organisms through genetic engineering methods.

Minister Mujawamariya clarified that Rwanda would only permit the use of GMOs if they could directly benefit Rwandans without causing any harmful effects. For instance, if research demonstrates that modifying a cassava variety to remove bitterness does not pose health risks but increases yields, the government would wholeheartedly support such initiatives.

Rwanda’s regulation of GMOs coincides with the Agriculture Board (RAB) conducting confined field trials for a GMO cassava variety resistant to cassava brown streak virus disease (CBSD). This disease poses a significant threat to the staple food crop’s production and farmers’ income. Additionally, RAB plans to conduct trials for a potato variety resistant to late blight, a destructive disease locally known as ‘Imvura’, which affects crops during the rainy season.

Furthermore, the Minister mentioned the possibility of endorsing research to develop a mosquito species that does not cause malaria or preys on malaria-causing mosquitoes. Such a breakthrough in medical science could significantly benefit Rwandans in terms of healthcare.

Mujawamariya underscored the importance of the legislation, given Rwanda’s commitment as a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. These agreements mandate parties to establish administrative and regulatory measures for the safe and regulated use of modern biotechnology.

In response to questions from Members of Parliament, the Minister confirmed the existence of a quarantine area for GMO cassava trials in Huye District. She also reassured the parliamentarians that a biosafety laboratory, along with necessary equipment, was being established in Rubavu District to ensure preparedness and adequate capacity for biosafety testing.

The commitment of Rwanda’s Environment Minister to back GMOs that offer benefits to citizens while prioritizing strict biosafety measures demonstrates the government’s balanced approach towards embracing biotechnology for agricultural and medical advancements. By ensuring that any GMOs introduced have clear benefits and pose no harm to the population or the environment, Rwanda is poised to leverage biotechnology to enhance food security, healthcare, and overall national development.

Original Article written by Emmanuel Ntirenganya

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