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Genome editing knowledge products solve agricultural, healthcare challenges

Delegates at a workshop on development of knowledge products on genome editing
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Product knowledge of genome editing provides transformative technology in the field of biotechnology, unlocking unprecedented possibilities for solving complex challenges in various sectors, ranging from agriculture and environmental conservation and healthcare.

These were remarks by Mrs. Anna Tinarwo, the Chief Director of Devolution and Development Planning in the Office of the President and Cabinet, who was representing Mr. Willard Manungo, the Deputy Chief Secretary in the same office, in her welcome remarks in Hararare today at the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) spearheaded workshop on the development of knowledge products on genome editing.

Zimbabwe is part of the eight-member African countries selected to implement a pilot project of genome editing by AUDA-NEPAD alongside Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and Nigeria. In Zimbabwe, the lead implementing agency is the Scientific and Industrial and Research Development Centre (SIRDC) and the National Biotechnology Authority (NBA).

The workshop in Harare is a follow-up to the finalisation of the Zimbabwe Genome Editing Communication and Advocacy Strategy (ZGECAS) which will be launched soon.
“It is without doubt, that Genome Editing has emerged as a transformative technology in the field of biotechnology, unlocking unprecedented possibilities for solving complex challenges in various sectors, ranging from agriculture and environmental conservation and healthcare,” Mrs. Tinarwo said.
In attendance are prominent scientists who have made ground-breaking contributions to agriculture.
Media professionals are also in attendance as key opinion influencers, who can accurately portray the scientific advancements and foster meaningful public dialogue. Advocacy groups provide the voices of concerned citizens, ensuring that decisions regarding Genome Editing are inclusive and respectful of diverse perspectives. It is also important that science communicators play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between scientists and the general public, making complex concepts accessible and engaging
Ivan Craig, an agricultural expert, urged scientists to take serious scientific decisions to reverse the damages brought about by climate change whose impact is felt across agriculture and healthcare, among other sectors.
“I am happy today, there is a workshop which is somehow part of the solution to the reversal of climate change at the same time looking at productivity and the health and safety of people.
“We must take serious actions in readdressing the issues to do with global warming and again I am happy today we are here. If we don’t, we are putting ourselves, particularly the next generations into danger because the population is not stopping to grow,” Craig said.
Agriculture produces greenhouse gases such as methane which is a result of manure degradation and microbial fermentation in the rumens.
Craig added that knowledge-driven product development is not a process. Rather, he said it is a way of designing or product development that prevents teams from making decisions that are based on wishful thinking. It requires consultation, and it must be a two-way system with the stakeholders, thus embracing indigenous knowledge systems.
He said the task for plant and animal breeders is to create products which determine the future of the whole agricultural ecosystem.

“The whole idea is not to convince the end user but make them see the benefits of the product. This is by providing a platform that help stakeholders in decision making by seeing, feeling and touching. Examples would be simple communication through extension; sharing trial results; live demonstrations; field days; shows; workshops; formal trusted and respected publications and media,” Craig added.

The master farmer called on the need to develop relationships and networks between the breeders and stakeholders who are the beneficiaries of the product.

“We are going to see a lot of improvements in the climate change reversal through this Genome Editing programme which we must emulate and cherish. The programme will improve cattle feed through enhanced nutrition and produce crops that will decrease methane emissions from cattle – one problem solved.

“The programme will again point to the potential for enhanced yields, reducing food loss and waste caused by improved quality. Combating climate change will address the issues with adaptability, drought tolerance, maturity days, disease tolerance, productivity, quality, good storability, and longer shelf life amongst other characteristics – once in place less methane. It is also important to mention challenges and opportunities that are coming with the programme,” Craig said.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende