New GMO maize ready for Kenya

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Scientists are lobbying for approval to commercialise a genetically modified maize variety.

“Globally, Bt maize has been proven to effectively control stem borer and improve maize grain yield and quality due to reduced pest damage,” Eliud Kireger said yesterday.

Kireger, the director general of the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation, spoke at Kalro headquarters.

The National Biosafety Authority published a notification last week seeking views from members of the public on approval of Bt maize.

In Kenya, the stem borer is known to reduce maize yield by an average of 13 per cent or 400,000 tonnes of maize a year.

This is equivalent to the amount of maize imported by the government yearly for Sh7.2 billion.

If the variety is approved, Kenya will become the second country in Africa, after South Africa, to release Bt maize for use by farmers.

Other countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Spain and Portugal cultivate the maize variety.

“We are hopeful that NBA will approve the application to release the maize variety to allow farmers access better seed choices and to help them produce more reliable harvests,” Kireger said. He said such approval will pave way for variety release and registration through the National Performance Trials and eventual delivery to farmers through seed companies just like other crops.

The biotechnology trait is being incorporated into the drought-tolerant maize being developed by the Water Efficient Maize for Africa project to help farmers reduce the damage caused by insect pests.

“Approval for release will ensure farmers enjoy the benefits of higher maize yields and better quality grain due to controlled pest infestation,” Denis Kyetere, executive director of Africa Agricultural Technology Foundation, said.

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