15 November 2018

Kenya: Experts Oppose Genetically Modified Cotton Over Safety

Food security experts have opposed the government's plan to introduce genetically modified cotton in the country saying it is not safe for both humans and animals.

Three organisations -- the Route to Food Initiative (RTFI), Kenya Biodiversity Coalition (KBioC), Africa Biodiversity Network (ABN) and Greenpeace Africa -- yesterday termed the move as unwarranted and asked the government to reconsider its decision.

The Bt cotton is from a genetically modified seed which is developed with a gene called BT toxin. The toxins are strains of the bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that contain proteins that are harmful to the boll worm which is the main pest affecting cotton.

Bt cotton has been proved to be resistant to diseases.

The government plans to launch farming of Bt cotton in January next year while farmers are expected to plant their first seeds in March.

So far, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) planted the first Bt cotton in the open for environmental testing in Kibos, Kisumu County.

Kalro has also been conducting an online sensitisation campaign on Bt maize.

National performance trials spearheaded by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service will be conducted in Bura, Matuga at the coast, Kibos in Kisumu, Alupe in Busia, Kampi ya mawe, Mwea, Kerio Valley and Perkera sites.

KBioC national coordinator Anne Maina said the country must look into health effects the GMOs have on humans and animals before they introduce them.

"Why are we considering the possibilities of Bt cotton farming and profiling yield increases from genetically modified maize when the 2012 ban on GM food imports is still in effect and a public engagement on whether the country is ready for this technology has not been heard?" She posed.

During Mashujaa Day celebrations, President Kenyatta directed several ministries to come up with a mechanism to revive the cotton subsector.


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