There is urgent need to clear the confusion caused by the uncertainty over the ban on genetically modified crops after the Cabinet okayed the planting of biotech cotton last week.
The move by the Cabinet will see Kenyan farmers get access to biotech (BT) cotton, which has been touted as being superior to the conventional variety currently in use.
The government argues that commercial farming of BT cotton will ensure farmers earn more from their crop through increased production.
Experts say that the BT cotton can raise the country’s annual cotton production to 250,000 bales from the current low of 28,000 bales.
While this development is bound to be greeted with relief by cotton farmers, the government still has to explain whether the ban on genetically modified crops is still on.
A ban on importation or growing of GM crops in the country has been in place since 2012 and the moratorium is yet to be lifted.
We urge the government to move quickly and clear the air so that farmers can understand whether the lifting of the ban only applies to cotton or also includes crops like maize. The Cabinet’s move to approve the growing of BT cotton is bound to raise hopes on the lifting of the ban on national performance trials on GMO maize that were stopped by the Ministry of Health in 2017.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the government had decided to push the BT cotton case first before moving on to the maize question.
We aver that there is also need to ensure that all State agencies read from the same script to avoid confusion that has normally beset the agricultural sector.
The GMO debate has taken a global dimension with experts arguing either for or against the new crop technology.
Scientists pushing for GMO cotton argue that they are pest -resistant, drought- tolerant and provide a viable solution to the notorious boll worms that have been decimating the crop’s production for years.
The adoption of the new technology is also seen as a boon for the country’s textiles sector, which has been on the rebound.
For the industry to be sustained there is need for adequate supply of cotton for the respective textile mills.
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