Kenya has licensed India- based firm Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co (Mahyco) to import genetically modified cotton seeds for sale to local farmers after the ongoing field trials.
Mahyco will distribute the seeds on behalf of Monsanto Company, which this year was granted permission by the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) to conduct the National Performance Trials on biotech cotton.
The licensing of the firm implies that the country is set to lift a six-year ban on importation of GMO material.
Commercialisation is expected in the next two years.
“Monsanto has been working with Mahyco in Africa including in licensing of Bt cotton technology for commercialisation in Nigeria and Malawi,” said Mr Jimmy Kiberu, head of Corporate Communication at Monsanto Kenya.
Mahyco is a global agricultural company founded in India in 1964 with operations in Asia and other African countries.
The field trials are currently being conducted in Mwea, Bura Tana, Katumani, Kampi ya mawe (Makueni) and Perkerra in Baringo County.
The project is expected to be completed within 24 months, which is the validity period for the permit issued by Nema.
After the trials, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) will then asses the seeds to find out if they have all the qualities that have been attributed to them.
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If Kephis find out that the seeds are resistant to pests and has higher production than the current variety, then they will allow the scientists to release it for commercialisation.
Kenya imposed a ban on GMO crops in November, 2012, citing danger to public health, a decision that locked out many countries, including South Africa, from exporting maize to the country.
The taskforce formed to establish the safety of GMO crops following the ban, and influenced by a scientific journal that linked GMO crops to cancer, recommended the lifting of the ban on a case-by-case basis.
President Uhuru Kenyatta in January said he was betting on mass production of biotech cotton to create 50,000 jobs and generate Sh20 billion in apparel export earnings this year as part of his final term economic revival plan.