The government is investing more in development of homegrown biotechnology innovations that will enhance agricultural productivity and promote food security in the country.
Education CS Prof. George Magoha has said integration of science and technology plays a critical role in enhancing agricultural productivity and economic growth in the country, leading to the realization of the Big Four Agenda.
The CS said through facilitation of the National Biosafety Authority as a regulatory Agency for technology, Kenya was now part of the few African countries that are progressively developing biotechnology products, thereby slowly drifting away from being recipient of technology developed elsewhere.
He commended the National Biosafety Authority for approving BT maize for National Performance Trials (NPTs), a genetically modified maize variety, which he said once available to farmers, will significantly improve food security, reduce environmental damage and help smallholder farmers achieve significant gains in their earnings.
The authority also approved the application for the environmental release of genetically modified (GM) cassava which Prof. Magoha said will ensure farmers are protected from devastating losses caused by cassava diseases. They will also benefit from increased cassava root quality and marketable yields.
The CS who was speaking during the 10th Annual Biosafety Conference held in Naivasha was happy that the authority approved the Bt-cotton for Environmental Release, which he noted will result in high yields in cotton, thus putting the nation at the forefront in textile production in Africa and the world and further enhancing the country’s apparel production industry, a significant milestone in attaining manufacturing as one of the Big Four Agenda items.
While acknowledging that the biotechnology innovations were significant in accelerating Kenya’s long-term development plan, the CS regretted that the country among other African states was unable to effectively harness the full potential of biotechnology crops and products because of the weak capacity to regulate the GM products.
He said the country needs biosafety regulatory measures which go hand in hand with biotechnology to help in adapting to new and emerging technologies and also address challenges including the government ban on importation of GM foods and the overlaps in regulatory mandates.
The CS however assured that his ministry will work with the parliament in ensuring that Kenya obtains a harmonized regional biosafety regulatory framework and also explore a co-evolutionary approach in which a particular technology is developed alongside its regulatory framework.
By Esther Mwangi and Erastus Gichohi