The College of Natural and Applied Sciences of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) launched in Dar es Salaam yesterday a biosafety laboratory level 2 for research using plants or small animals that posed no threats to ecosystems.
Delivering a maiden speech during the launch, UDSM Vice Chancellor (VC) Prof Rwekaza Mukandala said the facility was the second of its kind in Tanzania after the one at Ministry of Agriculture research Institute, Mikocheni, required for genetically modified crops now that the country was committed to doing through its “Kilimo Kwanza” initiative to harness expertise in biotechnology as a means of ensuring achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“The significance of this facility cannot be overemphasised. This will be a place for Tanzanian scientists in relevant fields to train and research on genetically modified living organisms, which would stimulate socio-economic development,” Prof Mukandala said.
He noted that the intension was explicitly expressed by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda at a meeting with researchers in March this year, when acknowledged that biosafety was a multidisciplinary and dynamic field in genetic engineering.
He said the ultra-modern state-of-the-art facility was a showcase of other training and education programmes generously supported by the Danish government through Danish International Development Agency (Danida).
Tanzania like many developing countries, according to Prof Mukandala, was confronted with agricultural, human health and environmental problems that seriously impeded socio-economic development.
“Genetic engineering methods may improve both qualitative and quantitative traits of crops by transferring new genes into indigenous crop strains and confer tolerance or resistance and improved nutrition,” he said.
He explained that genetic techniques could be used for development of vaccines and drugs against major viruses and parasites infecting and infesting human beings and livestock.
“Biotechnology can revolutionise agriculture and the health sector by improving living standards at the same time protecting the environment,” Mukandala said.
Danish ambassador to Tanzania Bjarne Henneberg said the project practically underscored the longest lasting cordial relationship enjoyed between the two countries, whereby the Danish government had committed USD20 million annually for 40 other research supported initiatives.