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Crop Biotech Update

Kenyans Embrace Dialogue on Genetically Modified Crops

May 2, 2019

Dialogue is key in improving public perceptions on genetically modified (GM) crops. This emerged during Kenya's first national dialogue on GM crops held on April 24, 2019 at the University of Nairobi.

Kenya's Agricultural Research Principal Secretary Prof. Hamadi Boga welcomed the dialogue and affirmed the Government's commitment to support sober and objective discourse on modern agricultural technologies. He, however, cautioned against nullifying a scientific fact based on social, political, ethical or religious beliefs. Prof. Boga hinted that the Government is seriously exploring deployment of agricultural biotechnology as a sustainable option to address famine in regions prone to perennial drought. "Drought tolerant crops are an option for some of these communities so that they are not tied to relief food for the rest of their lives," he said. He also exuded confidence with the country's biotech research and regulatory capacity to safely apply genetic engineering tools in agriculture.

The farmers urged the Government to approve Bt cotton for commercial planting saying they have recorded big losses with conventional cotton due to its susceptibility to African bollworm. Daniel Magondu, chairman of the Society for Biotech Farmers of Kenya (SOBIFAK) said farmers have been "waiting for GM cotton and maize like yesterday."

The dialogue, organized under the auspices of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB-Kenya), was a collaborative effort between KALRO, National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation, the National Biosafety Authority and Kenya Universities Biotechnology Consortium. It is part of a national program aimed at promoting public awareness on agricultural biotechnology as the country makes significant strides towards commercialization of GM crops.

For more information, contact Dr. Margaret Karembu at mkarembu@isaaa.org.