MALAWI – Malawi has initiated trials of genetically modified (GMO) maize, a significant step towards curbing recurrent hunger and pests.

The trials are ongoing at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), currently in their first year and potentially extending up to seven years.

According to experts, the milestone is a testament to Malawi’s commitment to embracing modern agricultural technologies.

Lyson Kampira, chief research officer at the National Commission for Science and Technology said the adoption of genetically modified crops is a crucial step forward for the country.

He added that the introduction of BT maize, a genetically modified variant designed to be resistant to pests like the fall armyworm, represents a beacon of hope for Malawi’s perennial food insecurity.

The resistance observed in BT maize against these pests could significantly reduce crop losses, thereby increasing yields for smallholder farmers.”

This sentiment is echoed by Vitumbiko Chinoko, project manager at Open Forum Agriculture Biotechnology, who stressed the importance of biotechnology in addressing agricultural challenges and dispelled myths surrounding the safety of GMO crops.

On his part, Kingdom Kwapata, the trial manager, emphasized the resilience of the transgenic plants against the armyworms during a field visit in Lilongwe, highlighting the potential this research holds for Malawi’s food security

According to him, these trials are not just aimed at combating the devastating fall armyworms but also at developing herbicide-tolerant maize varieties.

This advancement in agricultural biotechnology comes at a crucial time as Malawi faces challenges such as drought, pests, and food scarcity. Funded by Bayer Malawi with a contribution of US$40,000, the project illustrates a collaborative effort to harness science for food security.

While the potential benefits of GMO maize are immense, the path to widespread adoption in Malawi, however, involves navigating regulatory, ethical, and environmental concerns.

The ongoing trials at Luanar serve as an essential step in generating credible data to inform policy decisions and public opinion.

However, it remains imperative to continue addressing public concerns and ensuring that advancements in biotechnology translate into tangible benefits for Malawi’s farmers and consumers alike, the experts noted.

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