A ban on importation or sell of genetically modified organisms commonly referred to as GMOs by the cabinet in 2012 is weighing down Kenya’s quest to be food secure.
While biotechnology experts back new varieties that are pest and drought resistant to reduce food imports, tight regulations now stand in the way as other countries benefit from data developed by Kenyan scientists.
The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization’s site in Kiboko, Makueni County is among six installations spread across the country where KALRO has been conducting tests to produce GMO varieties under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa, WETA.
Under the stewardship of Dr. James Karanja, the KALRO site has been developing hybrid maize varieties with transgenic genes.
Kenya’s quest to be food secure has been compromised by cyclic long dry spells and pest infestation which the Agriculture ministry projects have wiped out at least 25 percent of the country’s maize production capacity of 52 million bags.
With the country frequently facing food shortages, scientists are backing genetically modified maize as a solution.
However, for seven years, tight regulations including a cabinet ban on importation of GMOs have limited commercialization.
Because Kenya cannot proceed to national performance trial, experts have been forced to share critical data on GMOs with Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Uganda and Rwanda.