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Crop Biotech Update

Kenyan Clergy Supports Bt Cotton Cultivation

July 24, 2019
Stephen Kituku (in the middle) and team engages researchers at the Bt cotton NPT site in Mwea

Kenya's bid to commercialize Bt cotton has received a major boost after a section of religious leaders in the country endorsed the GM crop.

Speaking on July 18, 2019 during a farm visit to cotton farmers in central Kenya, the clerics endorsed cultivation of Bt cotton saying it will improve smallholder farmers livelihoods who bear the brunt of huge losses every season due to the African bollworm infestation.

Having to spray up to 15 times per season, farmers who rely on cotton for subsistence are now on the verge of abandoning cotton farming entirely. "My present harvest will barely cover half of the cost I have incurred this season," lamented Julius Njeru, a 72-year-old farmer whose family's livelihood has relied on cotton farming since 1968.

After witnessing farmers' growing adversity, the clerics visited a Bt cotton National Performance Trial (NPT) site in the region. A stark difference in performance and yield between Bt cotton and conventional varieties was evident, providing a ray of hope for the farmers. "We must make beneficial technologies available to our farmers while ensuring that all safety and regulatory conditions are met," said Stephen Kituku, National Director of Caritas, the Development and Humanitarian arm of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB).

Bt cotton has been improved with resistance to the African bollworm, reducing the need for pesticide spraying from 12 to 3 times per cropping season. The highly anticipated commercialization of Bt cotton in Kenya will not only increase farmers' profits but also create thousands of jobs for youth and boost the manufacturing sector as envisioned by the Kenyan government's Big Four Agenda.

For more information on this and other biotech developments in Africa, contact OFAB Kenya Chair Dr. Margaret Karembu at mkarembu@isaaa.org.

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