Research on genetic technology in
The country had planned to commercialise some genetically modified organisms (GMOs) once research on their safety and productivity is concluded, but that seems to have stalled after the ban.
Some of the developers of the technology have pulled out due to the uncertainty about the future of GM technology in the country.
The government banned the importation of GM products into the country in 2012, following a controversial study by French scientists led by Gilles-Eric Seralini that linked such products to cancer.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Food Chemical Toxicology in
Biotechnology companies like
One of the products, expected to have hit the local market by now, is the Bt cotton which had undergone successful trials at the
"We had completed the laboratory and field trials for Bt cotton and even submitted the report to the
"The ban is affecting us negatively because the products can improve food security and livelihoods in the country. We need to move fast," said Dr Waturu.
He said the Bt cotton would be beneficial to farmers if allowed to be commercialised, since it will reduce the need for pesticides from about 12 to three times in the crop's lifespan.
Bt cotton has a gene that is resistant to bollworm, one of the destructive pests found in the East African region.
"Of all the input in cotton, 32 per cent is channelled to pest control, and the Bt cotton will lead to a reduced number of pesticide sprays until harvest time," Dr Waturu said.
According to the
One of the key challenges facing the textile industry is low productivity and poor quality of cotton.
Research on Bt maize has also stalled. The study was at the confined field trials stage, and was being conducted at Kari's Kiboko field station in the east of the country.
"We wanted to move the trials to the farm and we were looking at 2016 for its commercialisation but it seems this will not be possible because of the ban," said former Kari director, Ephraim Mukisira, who was at the helm during the trials.
Dr Mukisira said Kari was satisfied with the way the maize trials were going before the ban.
"Bt maize has the potential of increasing the country's maize yields, which have stagnated for a long time now. It is also resistant to pests likes stem borer and grain borer," he added.
Maize production, for instance, declined from 39.7 million bags in 2012 to 38.9 million bags last year, according to the
This year, the
Agriculture Secretary Felix Koskei has already announced that the government will import maize from
Last year, the
READ: Parliament to study Thairu report amid clamour for lifting of ban
However, sources said the report will not be made public until the Cabinet discusses it first and a decision is made.
Dr Waturu expressed hope the government will lift the ban, saying the technology recently received support from the Deputy President
"We need to ask ourselves: 'How do we get farmers to use benefits of science and biotechnology to deal with the problems of hunger and poverty?' We should endeavour to demystify scientific and technological knowledge for farmers in our countries so that this knowledge can be applied to ensure food security,"
County governors have also vowed to lobby the government to lift the ban on GMOs, arguing it is not possible to produce enough food using traditional methods alone.
All the EAC partners are signatories to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a global framework that supports safe handling, use and transfer of living modified organisms.
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