Kenyan officials say that the country will start growing Genetically Modified (GM Maize) in April 2023.
Eliud Kireger, director general of Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) revealed that KALRO in collaboration with African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) will avail11 metric tons of certified GM seeds to farmers.
“The seeds will be planted on 500,000 acres across mid altitude agro ecological zones as demonstration pending full commercialization by private companies,” Kireger told Journalists in Nairobi.
Kireger notes that after a decade of successful research, three GM maize varieties, WE1259B, WE3205B and WE5206B were recommended for release by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS).
Her however reveals that the final release and placement to the market was pending a cabinet decision.
He adds that GM Maize is safe as conventional varieties for food, feed and the environment and they have been grown for almost 30 years with no verified health problems being reported.
The official notes that scientifically, GM maize is proven to be safe for food, feed and environment and is currently approved for cultivation in about 70 countries worldwide.
He observed that lifting of the ban is as a result of a real need to ensure food and feed security and to safeguard the environment.
Kenya’s lead agriculture scientist says that the country has a fully robust and functional policy, legal and institutional framework for governing Genetically Modified foods (GMOs).
He says that scientists at KALRO as required by law, worked with National Biosafety Authority (NBA), National Environment Authority (NEMA) and KEPHIS on various steps to ensure that the studies conducted are safe.
Kireger observes that the conventional seeds are unable to manage climate change and severity of drought and emergence of new pests such as Fall Armyworm (FAW) and maize stalk borer and diseases such as Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) hence posing a real threat to food, feed and nutritional security.
These insects, he adds, are expensive to control, with farmers spending up Kenya shillings 12,000 per acre on pesticides alone.
He notes that the pesticides are also harmful to human health and the environment, especially water.
Kireger says that the pests and diseases are significantly contributing to low production that currently stands at seven to 10 bags of maize against the potential of 22 to 35 bags per acre.
He revealed that Kenya loses 13 million bags of maize to stock borer alone annually valued at Kenya shillings 32.5 billion annually and also increases aflatoxin contamination which is a health hazard.