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Kenya National Environmental Management
asks public opinions on GM cotton

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya on Thursday sought public comments before embarking on a national performance trials (NPT) of genetically modified cotton (Bt cotton).

Margaret Njuki, Chief Compliance Officer at the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), said it is mandatory that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the proposed trials be done before the final release of the insect-resisting cotton and its varietal derivatives in Kenya.

“We have to call for public comments before commencing with the trials as required by the law,” Njuki told journalists in Nairobi on Thursday.

She said that Kenyans are free to raise comments up to April 15, thereafter NEMA will proceed to make their decision by end of April based on the public suggestions.

“We have developed a cotton revitalization roadmap with conventional and hybrid seed initiative which will then be followed by the growing of Bt cotton by 2019,” said Rajeev Arora, chairman of Bt cotton Taskforce in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives.

Arora said that the commercialization of Bt cotton will produce yields three times of conventional varieties.

He said that 20 counties have been mapped out as potential areas for revitalization of cotton production with a total of 200,000 hectares.

Arora observed that there are plans to increase cotton production from the current 5,500 tonnes to 50,000 tonnes in the next five years.

“This will enable us to create 680,000 jobs through cotton farming, 210 jobs at ginning, 6,000 jobs at integrated mills and 25,000 at garments manufacturers,” he added.

He noted that under the plans, local production will help substitute 12 million U.S dollars worth of imports, promote lint export and create self sufficiency of the lint.

Simon Gichuki, Chief Scientist at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), said scientists have been researching on a technology to reduce farmers’ losses due to attacks on the crop by ball weevils for the past 10 years.

Gichuki said that even though a major breakthrough to the Bt-cotton commercialization initiative was realized in August 2011 when the Biosafety Regulations were gazetted, the process has delayed due to misunderstanding of the technology.

“We have reached over 7,000 farmers and hundreds of policy makers and stakeholders in main cotton growing areas to help create awareness on the new technology,” he said.

Gichuki added that the technology is one of the fastest-growing agricultural technologies globally that have helped improve livelihood of people.

Cotton growth in Kenya is believed to have played a big role in poverty reduction.



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