Genetic engineering technologies for Ethiopian agriculture: Prospects and challenges

Genetic engineering (GE) technologies can contribute to improve crop productivity and quality in Ethiopia. Adoption of commercialized insect resistance and herbicide tolerance technologies can help to protect major crops such as cotton, maize, sorghum and small cereals from their main insect pests or prevent heavy weed-inflicted loss. Moreover, key production constraints such as  bacterial wilt of enset, late blight of potato, drought stress on crops like maize and wheat, lodging resistance on tef as well as low nutritive quality of native crops like enset and grasspea can be addressed by strengthening domestic GE research capacity and international collaboration. Cognizant of this potential, the Ethiopian government has made significant investment in modern biotechnology capacity building in the last decade. There has also been specific interest by cotton sector to boost its productivity by adopting insect resistance (Bt) technologies. However, the GE regulatory system based on the existing biosafety law is so stringent that it is not possible for the country to access useful technologies from abroad as well as initiate domestic GE research. Consequently, no GE experiment is approved so far, leaving the country at risk of missing out on the global GE revolution. To catch up and  harness the benefits of GE technologies, the country needs to create conducive regulatory environment, strengthen domestic GE capacity and devise a farsighted strategy.

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