Farmers to get GMO maize seeds from March 2023

The lifting of the ban now allows for open cultivation and importation of white GMO maize

The government is set to release genetically modified (GMO) maize seeds to farmers early next year.  

The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) Director General Dr Eliud Kiplimo Kireger said 11 tonnes of certified GMO maize seeds will be made available to farmers during the long rainy season that starts in March and April.

“The seeds will be planted by farmers on 500,000 acres across mid-altitude agro-ecological zones as demonstrations, pending full commercialisation by private companies,” he says.

Earlier this month, the Cabinet under the leadership of President William Ruto, lifted the ban on genetically modified organisms after 10 years following the recommendation of a task force to review matters relating to the safety of GM foods.

The ban prohibited the open cultivation of genetically modified crops and the importation of food crops and animal feeds produced through biotechnology innovations. The lifting of the ban now allows for open cultivation and importation of white GMO maize.

Animal feeds

The decision has generated mixed reactions, with scientists saying it was long overdue while proponents of organic farming say the decision was rushed.

To allay those fears, Dr Kireger said GMOs have been proven to be safe for food, animal feeds and the environment and are currently approved for cultivation in about 70 countries globally. But civil society groups have opposed the move, citing a lack of public participation prior to the lifting of the ban.

National Coordinator Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya Anne Maina said GMO crops are heavily dependent on synthetic fertilisers and toxic pesticides like Round-Up that have been linked to cancer and other toxic pesticides.

“With climate change, GMOs cannot survive with water. The switch to GMOs will lead to biodiversity loss having a negative impact on nutrition,” she said.

Dr Kireger said the lifting of the ban was informed by the need to ensure food and animal feed security and to safeguard the environment.

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