Kenyan researchers step up trials for genetically altered crops in bid to fight hunger

Left: A man holds a harvest of a GM maize variety at the Kari research station in Kiboko, Makueni County. National field trials for genetically modified maize (BT maize) have reignited interest in the bid by government and private companies to use science to produce more food. NATION MEDIA GROUP PHOTO

National field trials for genetically modified maize (BT maize) have reignited interest in the bid by government and private companies to use science to produce more food cheaply.

The situation has been made more urgent as the population continues to grow and worsening climatic conditions make more and more people vulnerable to starvation due to their inability to produce enough food to feed themselves.

The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) have been conducting confined trials for various crops aimed at easing the hunger pangs while creating new avenues for Kenyans to earn money through propagating genetically modified seeds and commercial planting of Kenya’s staple foods.

BT maize was the latest to be released for national field trials, which will see new varieties chosen for eventual release to individual farms.

The new variety that has shown encouraging resilience in semi-arid areas has shown resistance to insects and drought-tolerance capabilities resulting in high yields.

These attributes, technologists say, could produce higher yields at a cheaper rate since farmers would apply less amounts of pesticides, leading to healthier food crops with low chemical residual levels.

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