Kenya’s Farmers may soon receive new genetically modified cotton seeds
Kenya’s regulator for genetically engineered crops has called for the public comments before releasing genetically modified cotton seeds to the farmers.
The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) said the application to accept the seeds in the market follows several years of laboratory, greenhouse and confined field trials that Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has been spearheading.
The cotton variety provides inbuilt protection against attack from pests, and is expected to increase yields due to reduced insect pests once introduced. Besides, farmers are also expected to benefit from reduced exposure to insecticides resulting in time and labour savings.Tonui revealed that the application is currently undergoing a science-based review process by the NBA, relevant regulatory agencies and independent experts, to ascertain that the proposed product is safe for human and animal health and the environment.
The regulators are looking at nutritional composition, toxicity and allergenicity in their food assessment while the environmental evaluation looks at persistence and invasiveness and horizontal gene transfer. The Kenyan government has identified cotton sub-sector as an important sector in the fight against poverty.
However, the sub-sector has been performing poorly due to lack of quality seeds and high costs of production among others. Insect pests, like the African bollworm, are particularly to blame for the sharp rise in production cost of cotton in Kenya. It is estimated that up to a quarter of Kenya’s population live in cotton growing areas, and can therefore benefit from revival of the cotton industry.