Biotechnology

1000 Farmers Selected To Grow GMO Cotton In Kenya.

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1000 Farmers Selected To Grow GMO Cotton In Kenya. Photo Courtesy

1000 Farmers Selected To Grow GMO Cotton In Kenya.

1000 Kenyan farmers have received the country’s first genetically modified cotton seeds through the ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries headed by cabinet secretary Peter Gatirau Munya.

These seeds have been improved with a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene which will help the farmers provide resistance to the harmful African bollworm complex across the country. In March this year, the first seeds were issued and cultivated.

1000 Farmers Selected To Grow GMO Cotton In Kenya. Photo Courtesy

According to Rajeev Arora, chairperson of the Bt Cotton Task Force, the aim of engaging the 1000 farmers is to showcase how the inbuilt insect resistance can lead to savings in chemical pest control and higher effective yields in farmers’ fields.
“With the assistance of the government’s technical support, the farmers will demonstrate the right use of the technology to the society particularly interested farmers and the way they will save on chemical pest control as well as production of higher yields .”, Arora said.
“The main agenda is to build capacity of at least 40,000 farmers in Bt cotton”, he added, noting that mentoring the mentees will enable faster spread of the information.
According to Arora, the Kenyan government, which previously had banned GMO , has encouraged the utilization of technology after being exposed to accurate information about crops developed through the science of biotechnology and assessing their contribution to improving farmers’ productivity.

1000 Farmers Selected To Grow GMO Cotton In Kenya. Photo Courtesy

The Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Peter Munya, created the task force to spearhead the commercialization of Bt cotton and revitalization of Kenya’s textile industry in response to the December 2019 approval of the crop by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Cabinet.

“The government’s “Big 4” agenda identified the cotton, textile and apparel value chain as a priority manufacturing sector economic driver projected to contribute eight to 15 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)”, Arora noted.
“We hope to interact with 40,000 to 200,000 farmers in commercial planting by 2022,” Arora added.

“Our demand now is close to 50,000 bales of cotton and we hope to reach 200,000 bales by next year, “he said.
“Bt cotton is predicted to enhance cotton production by reducing crop losses to insects and interesting farmers in arid and semi-arid areas where they’re not currently growing crops”, said Arora.
“Part of the general production strategy is to strengthen local cooperatives and empower ginners to extend capacity and establish new facilities,” Arora explained.

The textile manufacturing industry is currently exporting goods totaling some US$500 million and aims to reach US$1 billion by 2022.
Based on the earlier report, the government plans to create over 50,000 textile industry jobs primarily for women and youth through the introduction of Bt cotton as well as adding more employees in already existing industries in Kenya like Rivatex in Uasin Gishu county.
According to Professor Dorington Ogoyi, chief executive officer of the NBA the Cabinet’s decision to approve the commercialization of Bt cotton, the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) was authorized to allow the environmental release of Bt cotton and introduce it to the market.

“The NBA approved Bt cotton for commercial use last year December, which suggests farmers can cultivate the crop under certain stipulations”, Ogoyi explained.
“For instance, Kenyan law requires that each one GMOs need to be labeled”, he added.
“The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) put out by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) was applicable when there was a ban on GMOs; however, since the ban has been lifted, we don’t get to repeat the EIA,” said Arora.

The insertion of the genes from B. thuringiensis causes cotton cells to supply crystal insecticidal proteins, often mentioned as Cry proteins. These insecticidal proteins are effective in killing some of the most injurious caterpillar pests of cotton, such as the budworms and bollworms.

This new technology for managing insect pests was approved for commercialization within us by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in October 1995 and is now available from several seed companies in Kenya as well as in many other cotton-growing countries around the world.

Mercy Tyra Murengu
A multi-award-winning journalist accredited by the Media Council of Kenya.

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