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03.02.2020 |

The GM potato push in Rwanda: With regulatory hurdles in Uganda, is this the industry’s fall back?

To enable the introduction of the first GM crop to be grown in Rwanda – a GM potato variety named ‘Victoria’ – the Rwandan government is fast-tracking the development of a biosafety policy and legal framework.

Civil society is deeply concerned about the potential risks of this GM potato variety, which has been genetically modified through cisgenesis – a process that involves taking three genes from three wild South American potato varieties to confer resistance to late blight.

Late blight has a devastating impact on potato farmers globally, with yield losses in East Africa alone estimated at up to 70%. This has led to Rwandan farmers using more pesticides, particularly fungicides – normally eight applications of three different chemicals each season. Not only does this excessive use of fungicide come at a high financial, environmental and health cost but it has also led to increased resistance in late blight, which is caused by a pathogen that quickly adapts into new strains, living on and between crops as mycelium.

Understandably, the Rwandan government would like to reduce vulnerability to late blight, increase yields and reduce the amount of fungicide used in the growing of potatoes.

However, will this GM potato fulfil on its promise to provide a solution?

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