There is no technology that is risk-free. There is urgent need for Kenya and other African countries to approve the commercial cultivation of available biotechnology crops as they continue to conduct research for future applications.
African women spend 200 hours a hectare a year weeding. Herbicide-tolerant crops will have significant impacts on their welfare and improve the living standards of farming households. Approving the commercial application of biotechnology will help motivate Kenyan universities to invest more in biotechnology research.
The entry barriers for biotechnology research are falling dramatically. It cost Craig Venter $100 million to sequence the human genome in 2001. By the end of this year the price of sequencing a genome will be down to $1,000. The challenge is understanding the information in the sequences and putting it to the service of humanity. .
I would like to call upon Kenya’s youth, starting with my fellow 2012 graduates from JKUAT to dedicate their lives to making biotechnology promote economic inclusion in the same way that mobile technology has done for money transfer and banking.
The writer is director of the Science Technology and Globalisation project at Harvard Kennedy School in the US. This is an abridged version of a speech he delivered at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.