Kenyan feed processors gain approval to import yellow maize with minimal GMO content

KENYA – Kenyan animal feed manufacturers have been given the go-ahead to import yellow maize with minimal GMO content, as the government moves to tame escalating prices of commodities used to raise farm animals.

The Ministry of Agriculture has reduced the level of yellow maize purity from genetically modified organisms (GMO) to 99.1 percent from the previous 100 percent.

The change in the GMO policy is set to be gazetted this week on the back of the rise in price of a 70-kilogramme bag of dairy meal from Ksh2,500 in August last year to Ksh3,400, chick marsh is retailing at Ksh4,200 from Ksh3,250 while layers is now selling at Ksh3,800 from Ksh3,100.

These price hikes have resulted in the closure of at least 30 feed mills and a reduction in milling capacity utilization.

“In the light of the ongoing drought and a shortage of feeds, we have decided to review the framework on importation of yellow maize by lowering the requirements to 99.1 percent GMO-free,” said Livestock Principal Secretary Harry Kimtai.

The GMO-free directive had seen millers fail to ship in even a single bag of yellow maize, citing difficulty in sourcing the commodity without a trace of the offending modifications.

There is an ongoing debate about the safety of GMO crops which has several advantages such as resistance to drought, pests, and higher yields.

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Kenya is yet to lift the 2012 ban on imports of GMO products in the country. Mr Kimtai also said that feed manufacturers have been allowed to import GMO cotton seed cake from any part of the world to boost the production of feeds in the country.

Cottonseed cake, together with other ingredients like sunflower cake, which are key protein supplements have been in a short supply not only locally but also in the regional market where Kenya sources most of its stocks.

Despite Kenya having reservation in regards to GMO crops, African countries such as South Africa, Burkina Faso, Sudan and Egypt grow the GMO crops while Nigeria and Ethiopia recently approved commercialization of GMO products.

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According to AATF, in 2017, a record 189.8 million hectares of biotech crops were grown globally – an increase of 4 million hectares from 2016 and more than 100-fold gain since 1.7 million hectares were planted in 1996. An estimated 23.3 million hectares of land were planted with crops containing the Bt gene.

For the first 22 years of commercialization (1996-2016), benefits from insect resistant crops are valued at US$ 97.4 billion, 52.3% of the global value of biotech crops of US$186.1 billion; and for 2016 alone at US$9.73 billion, 53.4% of the global value of biotech crops of US$18.2 billion, records AATF.

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