EDITORIAL: Discuss GMO robustly

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A request by scientists to the biosafety regulator for the release of genetically modified maize seeds is bound to reignite debate on just how tightly the country should embrace biotechnology.

The Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation and the African Agriculture Technology Foundation have been researching on the production of insect-protected maize since 2007, followed by field trials in 2012.

This followed a bumpy start in 2005 when the government ordered the termination of the first field trials because Kenya did not have a biosafety framework.

This led to the creation of Du the National Biosafety Authority, which has now asked the public to submit their comments before commercialisation of the maize, which is designed to suffer less damage from the devastating stalk borer and other pests.

The least we expect in the coming days and weeks is a robust discussion based on hard science.

The concerns of small-scale farmers especially about seed ownership must be addressed otherwise this campaign could end up being drowned in an ocean of non-factual dissent that more easily gains traction among a sceptical public.

Considering the long trial period, the scientists should also have ecological impact assessment reports that address concerns about harm to the environment and other crops on the farm. The country cannot afford to lose its key allies in its attempt to create a food-secure future.

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