State targets 0.5m acres under GMO seeds next year – Business Daily
Biotech maize growing at a research station. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Farmers will get access to genetically modified seeds next year as the country moves to commercialise biotechnology foods with half a million acres expected to be put under the crop cover in March-May rainy season.
Eliud Kireger, the director-general of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) said the agency will be releasing certified GMO seeds to farmers during the long rains planting season.
The move follows the lifting of the ban early this month by the Cabinet, giving the green light to biotech crops after the restriction on imports and cultivation were imposed in 2012 on claims that they have adverse effects on health.
Dr Kireger said they will also provide GMO basic seeds to processing companies for breeding to produce enough quantities for sale to farmers.
“The seed will be planted by farmers on 500,000 acres across mid-altitude agro-ecological zones,” said Dr Kireger.
This will be the first time Kenyan farmers will be growing GMO maize under open cultivation.
Previously, these varieties were grown under confined field trials on research farms.
On October 3, President William Ruto lifted the ban on the cultivation and importation of GMO products after 10 years of field trials by local scientists. The move has so far elicited opposition from civil society that wants the technology to remain suspended.
Read: Ruto unlocks GMO billions as Kenya okays biotech foods
The President said the move was aimed at addressing the country’s food security and lowering the cost of maize.
Scientists have over the years argued that the solution to Kenya’s food security lies in technology given the changing weather patterns that have impacted productivity.
“Climate change and severity of drought and emergence of new pests such as Fall Army Worms and maize stalk borer, and diseases such as Maize Lethal Necrosis pose a real threat to food, feed and nutritional security,” Dr Kireger said.
He added that the GMO maize to be grown will be for domestic and commercial seed, noting that if there were enough seeds, all maize-growing zones would have been supplied with the biotech variety.
Scientifically, Dr Kireger said, GMO is proven to be safe for food, feed and the environment and is currently approved for cultivation in about 70 countries worldwide.
The 2012 ban was imposed following a study by a French scientist that linked it to cancerous tumours in rats that were fed GMO crops. The publication was, however, recalled in 2016.
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