Genetically modified cotton could be commercialized in Kenya as early as March 2019, the head of the country’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA) said on Friday.
“If the results of the national performance trials are positive, then it is anticipated that the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service will permit the release of the genetically modified cotton seeds to farmers by March 2019,” said Dorington Ogoyi, CEO of NBA. The trials for the transgenic cotton, which began in June, are expected to continue until the end of the year.
Before the genetically modified cotton seeds are released for commercialization, they will have to satisfy the condition of being a distinct, uniform and stable variety of cotton, Ogoyi said.
The performance trials are currently taking place in seven different sites under the Kenya Agriculture Livestock Research Organization. The Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds (Mahyco) is expected to make the seeds available to farmers on behalf of Monsanto company. According to the NBA, the transgenic cotton is pest resistant, which can help farmers cut spending on the use of insecticides. Jane Otadoh, assistant director of agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, said biotech cotton is one of the strategies that Kenya will utilize to help revive the cotton sector. Cotton production has been on the decline due to high prevalence of pests that has reduced incentives for farmers to grow the cash crop, Otadoh said. He said the country has the capacity and infrastructure required for research and regulation of biotech crops. Otadoh noted that the country has more than 100 scientists in research and development activities, with over 45 percent of them working for the government.