Farmers are likely to start cultivating genetically modified cotton by 2014, a research firm has revealed.
Researchers at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) at the weekend said they were awaiting the approval of the National Biosafety Authority before contracting farmers to grow the crop.
The authority is the lead regulator mandated to approve GM products in Kenya.
Dr Charles Waturu, the director of Kari’s Thika centre, said their survey had established that GM cotton had the capability to cushion farmers against high production costs.
“We have identified 06k485, 06k486 and 06k487 as the best cotton varieties from which we shall develop the GM cotton. The seeds will be multiplied and Kenya will be the regional supplier of these seeds that will be superior compared to the current ones in the market,” he told a biotechnology forum organised by the University of Nairobi and the Ministry of Agriculture in Kisumu.
He said contracted farmers would produce the cotton seeds that would be used in the subsequent planting seasons.
The director said the seeds would be distributed through the ginners in collaboration with Cotton Development Authority to enable proper auditing to curb unauthorised use.
Dr Waturu said their tests had indicated that with GM cotton, the number of spays could be cut from the current average of 12 to three, adding, it was more resistant to pests and diseases that have greatly contributed to low yields.
Avoid gene flows
“The GM cotton will also increase yields while conserving the environment as release of chemicals to the environment will be minimised,” he said.
The scientist said that an isolation distance of more than 13 metres would be left between fields with the GM cotton and traditional varieties to avoid gene flows.
Although still inadequate for the country’s consumption, cotton production in the country has assumed an upward trend since the revival of Eldoret-based, Rift Valley textiles (Rivatex) in 2007.