NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
As Kenya is getting closer to grow genetically
modified cotton next year to boost the textile industry, jitters
are growing over the crop amid low awareness on its benefits and
Kenyatta in June asked technocrats in the health and agriculture
ministry to explore the prospects of farming the genetically
modified cotton, commonly referred to as Bt (Bacillus
The move took the
east African nation a step closer to joining Botswana, Sudan and
South African in growing the crop, with January 2019 set as the
launch date for commercialization of the cotton.
are expected to start growing the crop for commercial purposes,
therefore, creating some 50,000 jobs.
Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) is
currently carrying out open field tests for the Bt cotton in
Kisumu and Busia in western Kenya, among other areas, ahead of
Bt cotton is
genetically modified to contain proteins that are harmful to
boll worms, the main pest affecting cotton, according to KALRO.
But as the plan
gathers speed, some agriculture lobby groups are opposing the
introduction of the cotton, noting it is not safe for human and
Besides, they note
that awareness among the public remains low on the benefits of
the crop as a 2012 ban on GMOs in Kenya remains in force.
“We are exploring
the possibilities of farming Bt cotton and profiling the crop as
the panacea to lift the textile industry,” said Anne Maina,
national coordinator of the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition.
Yet the 2012 ban on
GM food imports is still in force and there is no public
education and engagement on whether we are ready for this
technology, Maina added.
Maina asked the
government to look into the health effects that GMOs have on
human and animals before they introduce them.
“Almost 60 percent
of cotton products are used by animals and human beings and only
40 percent go to the textile industry,” she said.
“Cotton seedcake is
used in making animal feeds. These animals would later be
consumed by human, meaning people would be eating the GMOs.”
programs lead at Route to Food Initiative, noted that Bt cotton
would make farmers use more agrochemicals, standing in the way
of using ecological agricultural practices.
The country must
have a dialogue among sectors and stakeholders before adopting
and promoting Bt cotton, she said.
Karen Nekesa, Africa
Biodiversity Network programs coordinator, similarly, called on
the government to consider food safety and environmental
protection before commercializing Bt cotton.
KALRO’s director of Horticulture Research Institute, however, in
a recent interview allayed fears on Bt cotton, noting compared
to normal cotton seeds, Bt cotton yields up to some 500 kg per
acre and the crop is safer.
modified crops under trial in Kenya are drought tolerant maize,
bio-fortified sorghum, cassava and gypsophila paniculata cut
Last year, the
National Biosafety Authority (NBA), which regulates all
activities involving genetically modified organisms in Kenya,
approved environmental release and placing on the market of
genetically modified Gypsophila cut flowers in Kenya.
“The GM Gypsophila
has been improved through modern techniques by adding a few
genetic elements responsible for new range of colours from dark
purple and red to light pink coloration in flowers from a model
plant called Arapidopsis,” said NBA.
Kenya is keen on
commercializing the cotton to improve its manufacturing.