Kenya to get Sh249m GMO technology boost
KENYA is set to benefit from a US $ 3 million grant seeking to enhance knowledge sharing and awareness on biotechnology. The donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) will provide an enabling environment in Africa for decision making on genetically modified crops which will see farmers benefit.
Although the biosafety act is now in place, GMO opponents in Kenya still believe the country is not capable of protecting indigenous crops from the gene contamination, even as the country is set to release the first GM seed of Bt cotton this year. This will see farmers in Kenya join other farmers from South Africa and Burkina Faso who are already benefiting from commercial growing of Bt cotton as well as improve cotton yields which have stagnated over the years according to Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (Kari).
“Currently the debate on biotechnology is characterized by scientific facts which are often mixed with environmental, health, social-ethical and political considerations. This complicates matters for these key decision makers often resulting in development of negative perceptions of genetically modified crops and mis-informed discussions,” said African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) executive director, Dr Dennis Kyetere.
The enactment of the biosafety bills allows for testing and delivering of GM crops and tools that will ultimately help farmers in enhancing food security and creating wealth for their families and the nation.
But while farmers around the world have embraced GM crops, experts are concerned that Africa is still lagging behind and farmers are yet to benefit substantially for lack of or conflicting information on their use and adoption.
Dr Kyetere noted the need to address information gaps and concerns on agricultural biotechnology through facilitating the interaction of scientists with policy makers, farmers, civil societies and other stakeholders.
He said policy makers and the people they serve need to have the right information on GM to make informed decisions and take subsequent action. “OFAB vision is for an Africa in which agricultural biotechnology makes a significant contribution to enhanced food security and wealth creation and to help realize this vision, we are seeking to build an effective, trustworthy and responsive platform for the society to make informed decisions on safety and appropriateness of the application of agricultural biotechnology,” said Dr Kyetere.
OFAB chairperson in Kenya, Dr Margaret Karembu said they have made concerted efforts to contribute to informing policy decisions on GM regulations and biosafety laws discussions.