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Commercial growing of GMO cotton begins

Wednesday March 18 2020
gmo

Dr Waweru Gitonga of KARI examining a stand of genetically modified cotton in Mwea. PHOTO/FILEMAU

By PAULINE KAIRU

Kenya is ready to start growing genetically modified cotton on commercial basis.

The government Monday launched the planting of the Genetically Modified (GMO) Bt cotton seed. Some 1,000 farmers in 23 counties are targeted in the roll-out programme this planting season.

The Cabinet approved commercial farming of Bt cotton in December last year, partially lifting a ban on GMOs that has been in place since 2012.

In a programme backed by the Monsanto-affiliated Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company, a select number of farmers in the traditional cotton growing areas will start planting the seed this season.

CABINET APPROVAL

Speaking at Alupe University College in Busia on Monday during the launch of the seeds, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said counties with the most promising potential for cotton growing will be targeted.

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“Apart from the Cabinet approval, all other policy ingredients, including the necessary legislation, are in place for the roll-out of the BT cotton,” said Mr Munya.

“Each demonstration farm will train close to 100 farmers to create a pool of the opening batch that will form the initial catchment in readiness for full commercial Bt cotton farming,” he added.

The CS said the government seeks to have at least 200,000 acres under commercial Bt cotton. Kenya joins 11 other countries globally (six of them in Africa) that plant Bt cotton.

COST OF PRODUCTION

“Today we’re taking a step that many countries in Africa have not (taken) as we revive cotton farming with improved seed technology,” said the CS.

“Global experience with Bt cotton shows that the improved variety is a viable intervention to help boost production by addressing challenges caused by pests in addition to lowering cost of production.”

He said the industry is envisaged to create millions of jobs along the value chain in fulfilment of the government’s Big Four Agenda.

“We have taken long to get here but cotton production and the textile industry used to be major income earners for many communities before they were brought down by inappropriate macroeconomic policies,” said Mr Munya.

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