Kenyan scientists push for the adoption of GM technology

KENYA – The ban of Genetically Modified (GM) technology imposed in the country since 2012 and lack of approvals by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has been the biggest obstacle to food sustainability, scientists say.

Scientists have for the past ten years been carrying out successful Confined Field Trials (CFT) for the BT (Bacillus thuringiensi) maize in the country at the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KARLO).

But they have been facing hurdles of lack of approval of the successful trials by the government agency NEMA for the National Performance Trials (NPT) which according to the researchers are ready to be moved to farmers for use.

NEMA is the Authority that implements policies relating to approval, through the (National Biosafety Authority NBA, and conducts environmental impact assessment of GMOs intended for release into the environment.

 “The BT trials have proved to work, the demonstrations have shown that the hybrid maize we have planted have the potential to control pests such as the stem borer and also the recent fall army worm which is a major problem in the country,” James Karanja coordinator BT maize crop technology said.

Karanja emphasized that it has been demonstrated all over the world that BT maize has no single challenge when it comes to safety and that the technology at the KALRO sites is information enough to demystify the notion by critics.

Countries such as Brazil, Spain and Paraguay have embraced the BT technology while in Africa, South Africa, Mozambique and recently Ethiopia and Nigeria have joined in.

Justifying the technology currently in Kenya, there are 23 products that are licensed to be used as pesticide and all of them are using BT bacteria indicating it has no negative effect on human beings, animals or even birds.

Kenya taking a long time in adopting Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops puts the country at a risk of losing more funding from donors who have been funding the GM research, moving to other countries such as Ethiopia and Nigeria who are willing to adopt the technology.

Scientists say that the only way Kenya can solve food insecurity problems is adopting the technology to complement the conventional foods, considering 15% of the maize harvested in East Africa is lost to stem borers each year while the Fall Armyworm threatens to destroy up to 25% more of the harvest.

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