Farmers could turn to GMO crops
KENYAN FARMERS could soon start growing genetically modified maize if an application by scientists for approval by regulatory agencies succeeds.
Two months ago, Kenya was hit by a fall armyworm invasion. The infestation had reportedly affected over 400,000 hectares of maize across East Africa. In areas where the attack was reported, the Tela maize variety, which is genetically modified, has been observed to have less damage in Kenya and South Africa. The combined traits, including its drought tolerance, have resulted in maize grain yields of more than 30 per cent above the best commercial hybrids, said Gospel Omanya, senior manager of deployment at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).
But as the scientists await feedback from the country’s biosafety authority, consumers remain apprehensive over health concerns raised on GM crops.
“As it is, we have to be open-minded as food prices continue to rise, but I’m not sure if the GM maize is the solution. The concerned authorities should do more sensitisation and let us know the pros and cons of having this maize grown in Kenya,” said Jacob Ngetich, a small-scale farmer. He is among smallholder farmers in Kenya’s Rift Valley region whose farms were affected by the armyworm, and is concerned about protecting his farm against future invasions.
”Farming is my only source of livelihood, so I will do all it takes to protect it. I know there have been debates over GM maize in the country in the past. As a farmer who has had firsthand experience with crop loss, I would never rule out growing GM maize. I was not even aware of the application for seed approval,” said Mr Ngetich.
According to Mr Omanya, before such maize is released to the consumer, due diligence has to be done to ensure it is fit for human consumption and Kenya is not an exception.
ANTI-GMO protestors in Nairobi.