Uncertainty over GMO ban as Cabinet okays BT cotton

Wednesday March 18 2020
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Bt cotton in a controlled trial farm in Mwea, Kirinyaga. A ban on importation or growing of GMO in the country has been in place since 2012. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The Cabinet has approved the growing of genetically modified cotton in the country even as confusion reigns over the 2012 ban on such crops.

The move will see Kenyan farmers get access to biotech (BT) cotton that has been touted as superior to the conventional one, with experts saying it can raise annual production to 260,000 bales, from the current level of 28,000 bales.

The decision was reached on Thursday during a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“The Cabinet has approved commercial farming of BT cotton hybrids following successful completion of field trials conducted over a period of five years,” State House said yesterday in a brief.

A ban on importation or growing of GMO in the country has been in place since 2012 and the moratorium is yet to be lifted. The Cabinet pointed out that commercial farming of BT cotton will ensure farmers earn more from the crop through increased production.

Field trials on cotton have been going on in different parts of the country with scientists recording positive results from the confined trials that ended this year.

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The approval of GM cotton also brings hope on the lifting of the ban on National Performance Trials on maize, which was stopped by the Ministry of Health in 2017.

“The case that we are currently putting forward is the one on cotton, after that we can now push another case for maize,” Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga told the Business Daily in a previous interview. Scientists pushing for GM cotton argue that it is pest resistant and drought tolerant and provides a solution to the notorious bollworms that have been affecting production of the crop.