Empowering Farmers through Knowledge

North Rift Agriculture Ministers Call for Public Awareness on GMOs for Sustainable Farming

County agriculture ministers in the North Rift region are advocating for increased public and farmer sensitization on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These executives recognize the potential of modern biotechnologies in addressing pest and disease challenges, and they believe that creating awareness among farmers and the public is crucial for successful adoption.

During a visit by the Kenya University Biotechnology Consortium (KUBICO) to the counties of Baringo, West Pokot, Trans-Nzoia, and Uasin Gishu, the county ministers expressed their support for GMOs and their potential to enhance food security and safety while reducing the need for recurrent chemical sprays, thus benefiting the environment.

Risper Chepkonga, the Agriculture executive of Baringo County, emphasized the importance of collaboration between KUBICO and counties to sensitize farmers about modern biotechnologies. She asserted that achieving food security requires an informed understanding of these technologies by farmers.

Her counterpart from West Pokot, Wilfred Longronyang, encouraged researchers to establish demonstration farms showcasing insect-protected Bt maize to the farming community. He believes that seeing the technology in action will help farmers understand its safety and effectiveness, thereby facilitating higher adoption rates.

Trans-Nzoia’s agriculture executive, Phanice Khatundi, highlighted the need for public participation and further engagement with researchers, county governments, and farmers. She stressed the importance of involving the public and farmers in any technology adoption process to ensure successful implementation.

Elphas Kesio, the Agriculture and Agribusiness Chief Officer of Uasin Gishu County, expressed concern about the misinformation reaching the public regarding GMOs. He urged scientists to actively disseminate accurate information to address any misconceptions.

Dr. Joel Ochieng, the Secretary General of the Consortium, reassured the public about the safety of GMO products available in the country. He explained that rigorous safety measures and tests are conducted before any GMO product is approved for use.

The Bt maize, a genetically modified crop, is expected to enhance farm-level productivity by improving yields and ensuring food safety by eliminating pests that facilitate fungal infections and aflatoxin contamination. Additionally, the adoption of Bt maize will contribute to environmental sustainability by reducing the need for chemical spraying.

It is worth noting that a ban on GMO foods was lifted by the new Cabinet in October 2022, but it faced opposition from Members of Parliament (MPs) in the North Rift and other key maize-growing areas in Western Kenya. The MPs argued that wider consultation and public participation should be carried out before allowing GMO products. As a result, two court cases challenging the lifting of the ban are currently in progress, leading to a temporary hold on GMO maize imports and cultivation.

In conclusion, the county agriculture ministers in North Rift are advocating for increased awareness and understanding of GMOs among farmers and the public. They recognize the potential benefits of modern biotechnologies in addressing agricultural challenges, such as pest control and food safety. By engaging with farmers, conducting demonstrations, and disseminating accurate information, these leaders aim to pave the way for successful adoption of genetically modified crops in their counties.

Original Article written by AGATHA NGOTHO for The Star

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