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Official says GM maize will boost Kenya food security

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Mr William  Meli  takes notes during  a  meeting  between  farmers and Parliamentary Committee on Cost of Living chairman Ababu Namwamba in  Eldoret on Monday. JARED NYATAYA

Mr William Meli takes notes during a meeting between farmers and Parliamentary Committee on Cost of Living chairman Ababu Namwamba in Eldoret on Monday. JARED NYATAYA 

By PETER NG’ETICH

Posted  Wednesday, July 20  2011 at  00:00

Adopting genetically modified maize will help Kenya to achieve food security, a top government official has said as the debate on the safety of GMOs rages.

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Agriculture secretary Wilson Songa said a farm planted with GMO crop can produce as much as 40 to 50 bags of maize. Currently, the production is a maximum of about 30 bags.

Kenya produces about 32 million bags of maize yearly while demand has shot up to about 38 million bags due to rise in population.

The price of the grain has also gone beyond the reach of the majority because of surging cost of production. This has seen a 90kg bag retail at Sh4,500, up from Sh1,200 three years ago. 

Speaking during a meeting on climate change agriculture and food security meeting in Nairobi, Dr Songa said traditional methods of maize farming made the country less competitive in food production amid pressure from a rising population. In South Africa, he said, farmers use three to four types of pesticides on a GMO crop while in Kenya farmers use more than 15 before a crop matures.

“The technology is coming, there is no stopping it,” Dr Songa said.

The Agriculture secretary said South Africans have consumed GMO maize for the past 20 years, but there is no proof to show that it had harmed them. “Before we fully introduce it, it will go through the necessary agro-research analysis by Kenya Agricultural Research Institute,” he said.

At the beginning of the month, the Cabinet approved the importation of GMO maize to end food shortage. The decision was arrived at as Public Health minister Beth Mugo expressed fears that unscrupulous traders could have sneaked in the grain.     

Dr Songa said introduction of GMO food, which is cheaper to produce, would boost food production in arid and semi-arid areas.
“To ensure that Kenyan farmers produce enough food to feed ourselves, the solution must be a radical change to agriculture and GMO is the solution,” Dr Songa said.

Crop experts, however, warned that GMOs will affect the health of Kenyans. They urged the Government to go for bio-technology, which they claimed was safer and produces higher yields.

pngetich@ke.nationmedia.com