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Government urged to approve GM maize variety

County governments in maize growing areas want the National Government to fast-track the approval of Genetically Modified (GM) Bt maize variety for food sufficiency.
County government executive members in charge of agriculture in maize growing areas in western Kenya say they are satisfied with the efficacy of the new maize insect protected variety developed by researchers at the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO).
Led by the Nandi County Executive Member in-charge of agriculture and cooperatives Mr. Kiplimo Lagat, the CECs said it was imprudent for critics of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to continue opposing its introduction yet import the same into the country from South African countries.
KALRO scientists have been undertaking National Performance Trials (NPS) in Western and Eastern regions on the new insect protected GM maize variety known as Bt maize that will help farmers increase their yields by reducing damage caused by stem-borer and other pests.
The organization is yet to get a nod from the National Biodiversity Authority and National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation to commercialize the growing of the crop that is already being practiced in a number of African countries like South Africa and Nigeria.
During a sensitization workshop held at Kenya Sugar Research Institute in Kisumu, the county chiefs said the Bt maize planted earlier in Western Kenya under the National Performance Trials (NPT) has shown resistance to destructive stem-borer and fall armyworm pests.
Dr. James Karanja, coordinator of the programme said the new maize variety is environmentally friendly and will reduce the use of pesticides sprays. He said the country loses up to 23 million bags of maize to fall army worms and another 4 million bags to the destructive stem-borer, but the new variety is resistant.
Dr. Benson Mburu from the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation said the organization was assessing the biotechnology with a view to ensure it would conform to the established regulations.
The workshop was attended by CECs and chief officers from the department of agriculture from the counties of Kisumu, Kakamega, Busia, Trans Nzoia, Nandi and Bungoma.

By George Kaiga

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