Commercialization of Bt maize set to create employment

Maize_on_a_Mount_Kenya_farmThe youth senate (a national youth organization) and the university students undertaking biotechnology and biosciences related course have called on the government to approve an application by Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to commercialize the genetically modified maize variety.

They observed that the continued delay in commercializing the maize variety is denying university students an opportunity to secure jobs.

“The release of the maize variety will provide a good platform for entrepreneurial platform hence creating jobs to thousands of young people who are graduation from the universities in the country,” the President of the youth Senate Gideon Keter said during a press conference in Nairobi.

Keter said that seven public universities in Kenya are currently offering course on biotechnology and biosciences and students need jobs after graduating.

He noted that the students need an opportunity to prove themselves as they make contributions in achieving Kenya’s second medium term plan 2013 – 2017 that identifies biotechnology as one of the priority areas for visionary development.

“The delivery of genetically modified crop varieties for commercial production by Kenyan farmers remains a high priority due to its benefits,” Keter added.

The youth senate and the students pleaded with the Kenyan civil societies to respect local scientists adding that the scientists have taken many years researching as a way of making their contributions towards poverty alleviation.

They observed that the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), Kenya Bureau of Standards (KBS) and the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) are credible regulatory agencies to regulate the development and commercialization of genetically modified products in Kenya.

The youths said that agriculture currently employs 75 percent of the national labor force but food insecurity is still the order of the day as production appears to be going down.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Kenya produced a total of 31.6 million bags of maize in 2013, down from 38.9 million bags and 39.7 million bags in 2012 and 2011 respectively.

This low production is attributed to erratic climatic conditions, use of unimproved maize varieties, low us of improved agronomic technologies and high incidence of disease such as Maize Lethal Necrosis and pests such as stem borer.

In Kenya, stem borers, alone, are known to reduce maize production by an average of 13 per cent or 400,000 tonnes of maize, equivalent to the normal yearly amount of maize the country imports to meet recurrent deficits.

“A Lasting solution lies in the development and adoption of technologies that improve agricultural productivity as proposed by vision 2030 that recommends intensified application of science, technology and innovation to raise productivity and efficiency in agriculture,” a senior Manger and Head of Regulatory Affairs at AATF Dr. Francis Nangayo said.

If approved, Dr. Nangayo said that Kenyan farmers could reap the benefits of a more productive and more resilient crop, protecting families from the economic burden that pests inflict on their farms.

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