Farm­ers could turn to GMO crops

The East African - - BUSINESS - A SPE­CIAL COR­RE­SPON­DENT Xin­hua

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.

Pic­ture: File

ANTI-GMO protestors in Nairobi.

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