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Scientists Developing Genetically Modified Coffee

Two Indian scientists, in an article in the Journal of Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture, report that there is increasing interest in the scientific community to develop coffee with better pest and disease resistance.

Vinod Kumar and colleagues predict that “breakthroughs in in vitro manipulation and regeneration, coupled with successful gene delivery systems will help molecular breeders to come up with desired [coffee] varieties soon.”

“Since last three decades, there has been a steady flow of information on coffee biotechnology and now it is entering into the genomic era,” note the scientists.

I have every reason to be excited by this news. First, I come from a coffee growing country - Kenya. Coffee, actually, is the backbone of my country’s economy. A new genetically modified coffee variety that will require less or no pesticides will be a boon to my country’s economy. Farmers’ income will be boosted as this new coffee variety will, definitely, guarantee high yields.

Secondly, I was personally brought up in a coffee growing family. I recall, vividly, the days when my mum used to labor – day in day out - spraying and tilling, for our more than one hundred coffee trees, without anything to show. It wasn’t a milk and butter task. Pesticides related diseases were just too common, and took a toll on her health.

Pesticides induced diseases remain the most dangerous health hazards facing coffee farmers like my mum. Environmental degradation resulting from pesticides residues makes matter worse.

News of coffee varieties with better pest and disease resistance, then, could not have come at a better time. Pest and disease resistant coffee varieties will, first and foremost, safeguard the health of coffee farmers.

Additionally, it will make coffee farming economically viable. Farmers will no longer spend a fortune on pesticides. Because of modern agricultural biotechnology, coffee farmers will have extra money in their wallets to feed and educate their children.And all this reaffirms the potential benefits of modern agricultural biotechnology.

Submitted by:

James Wachai

James uses his communication expertise to create awareness about GM food. To read more about him, go to http://www.gmoafrica.org




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