Kenyan Stakeholders Prepare for Commercialization of Bt CottonNovember 2, 2017
Stakeholders in the cotton sub-sector in Kenya are eagerly awaiting the introduction of Bt cotton in the country. This was raised at a recent workshop to prepare officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries for the adoption of the GM crop. The workshop, also attended by representatives from Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, was held in Embu, north-east of Nairobi on October 16-17, 2017 and aimed at developing skills and capacity for effective management of the GM crop.
Dr. Charles Waturu, the principal researcher for Bt cotton in Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), informed participants that the trials for Bollgard I® and Bollgard II® cotton were successfully completed about 10 years ago. According to Dr. Waturu, the trials showed that transgenic cotton effectively controlled the populations of African bollworm and had no significant effect on non-target pest species. "Growing Bt cotton will significantly reduce the amount of insecticides used by Kenyan farmers, from 12 to about three sprays per season, thus reducing the cost of production and increasing income from cotton farming," he pointed out.
Anthony Muriithi, the head of Fibre Crops Directorate agreed that Bt cotton is the way to go for Kenya. He acknowledged that the introduction of GM crops will be a remedy to poor cotton yields recorded currently. "The country currently produces approximately 25,000 bales which is only 10.4% of her potential and once Bt cotton is commercialized, we will see an upsurge in cotton production," he noted. Some participants were, however concerned that the country's political dynamics could derail efforts to expedite the adoption of the crop. "Political leaders must show political goodwill and lead the course towards adoption and commercialization of Bt cotton," a participant said.
ISAAA Senior Programme Officer Dr. Faith Nguthi trained the stakeholders on effective science communication to promote understanding of the Bt cotton technology. Dr. Nguthi emphasized that in order to enhance trust and facilitate uptake of GM technology, there is a need to develop messages that are credible. The workshop was organized by Fibre Crops Directorate in collaboration with ISAAA and the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB-Kenya).
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