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Accept technology for country’s food security

Saturday October 5 2019

Bt cotton in a controlled trial farm in Mwea, Kirinyaga.

Bt cotton in a controlled trial farm in Mwea, Kirinyaga. Access to such agriculture technologies is crucial for a developing country like Kenya, where millions depend on farming and malnutrition is rife. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

GILBERT ARAP BOR
By GILBERT ARAP BOR
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I was appalled to read in the Nation of October 1 of the impending food shortages in Kenya.

However, I was encouraged by Industry CS Peter Munya’s announcement that the government would revive Mount Kenya Textile Mills in Nanyuki.

When President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned a cotton mill in Eldoret mid this year, he gave us hope about the future of farming and technology.

He directed the Agriculture, Industry, Environment, Health and Education ministers to speed up commercialisation of GMO cotton.

It meant that Kenya finally would lift a ban that has hurt farmers and prevented us from achieving food security.

The problem is that in the months since his visit, we have made no progress beyond our 20th century methods. We’re no closer to producing GMO cotton.

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For a decade, I have observed how this safe technology has helped farmers around the world, from the United States to South Africa. By reducing threats posed by pests and weeds, it has allowed farmers to get record-setting yields.

Access to GMOs is crucial for a developing country like Kenya, where millions depend on farming and malnutrition is rife. We must find creative and durable ways to increase the income of farmers and fight hunger.

FEED THE NEW MILL

The GMOs will not accomplish this by themselves but they are an important part of the formula. In his address at Eldoret Cotton Mill, Mr Kenyatta talked of the demand for GMO cotton. If the mill is to run at full capacity, it will need a reliable supply of cotton.

To achieve this, farmers will require access to GMOs that neutralise attacks by bollworms. This cotton will feed the new mill and half a dozen others that have been shut down. GMO has the potential to help them roar back to life.

Wherever cotton farmers have gained access to GMOs, they’ve rushed to take advantage of them. In India, for example, an estimated 97 percent of cotton farmers plant GMO varieties. They chose that voluntarily after seeing its benefits.

Maize is the next obvious opportunity for GMO adoption. As a grower of maize, I’m aware of how GMOs can improve my produce and profits. This tool would help me kill the insects that destroy crops without the complication of using pesticides.

Kenyans can complain about colonialism and racism and how the world neglects Africa — but in the case of GMOs, the fact is that we have denied ourselves a great opportunity.
We have seen what GMOs can do for farmers and consumers. Let’s allow this miracle to improve our lives.

Four months ago in Eldoret, President Kenyatta gave voice to the opportunity. It is up to the five ministers to push for the commercialisation of GMOs so that Kenya’s farmers can begin to grow the crops as soon as next year. This is the moment of action.

Dr Bor grows maize and vegetables and keeps dairy cows. [email protected]