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Crop Biotech Update

Kenyan Farmers Urge the Gov't to Release WEMA Bt Maize Amid Ravaging Drought

February 8, 2017

Farmers in Kirinyaga County, Central Kenya have reiterated their call on the government to lift the ban on GM food imports that was imposed by a cabinet decision in 2012. The farmers spoke during a field day organized to showcase good performance of the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) maize amid the ravaging drought that continues to be witnessed in most parts of Kenya. This maize variety is the non-transgenic counterpart of the GE maize developed to have resistance against stalk borer pests.

The event, organized by Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB-Kenya) in partnership with Integrated Community Organization for Sustainable Empowerment and Education for Development (ICOSEED) and Dryland Seeds Company highlighted the massive crop failure that farmers will have to face in the ensuing drought.

"We can clearly see that these drought tolerant varieties work, we demand that the government releases the WEMA-Bt maize to avert the crop failure that we face. We know that the research on these genetically engineered varieties is now complete," observed Mr. Mugo Magondu. He is among the farmers who attended the event, whose maize crops had completely failed due to inadequate October-December short rains. The CEC of Agriculture in Kirinyaga County, Mr. Peter Warui, lamented that the region does not expect any maize harvest in the year and faces a serious food deficit as a result. He advised farmers to adopt drought tolerant maize in the future and called on the government to hasten the release of WEMA Bt maize that would help ensure the region's and Kenya's food security.

The WEMA maize in the demonstration field has performed well, with farmers who had grown the crop expecting over 70 percent of their harvest. They encouraged other farmers to adopt new technologies and urged them to have confidence that the products of research will be safe. The farmers were at the frontline in dismissing misinformation that only results in fear of GM technology.

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