The Cabinet has approved the commercial farming of BT Cotton (Genetically Modified Cotton), with effect from March 2020.
The approval comes right after successful completion of field trials that were conducted over a period of five years. The performance trial was done after an environmental release approval by the National Bio-safety Authority (NBA) in 2016, based on Environmental Impact Assessment clearance certificate and licence for open field trials issued in 2018.
According to the government, the move will boost the manufacturing pillar of the Big 4 Agenda where Kenya seeks to establish itself as a regional leader in textile and apparel production.
Additionally, farming of BT cotton will ensure farmers earn more from the crop through increased production. This will be made possible because its commercial farming will lower the cost of production by 40%.
Currently, farmers lose close to KSh9,000 per season as they are required to spray the crop about six times per season.
Furthermore, experts also argue that the biotech cotton will raise annual production to 260,000 bales, from current level of 28,000 bales.
Pest control on the conventional varieties takes 32% of all production costs. Persistent use of synthetic pesticides is expensive and destroys benefits and induces pesticide resistance.
Principal BT Cotton Researcher and Centre Director, Charles Waturu
BT cotton is a genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically modified pest resistant plant cotton variety. It produces an insecticide to combat bollworm. BT technology has been used to mitigate effects of pests and diseases, drought stress and other challenges facing farmers globally with broader advantage of reduced production costs, improved crop quality and environmental protection from use of excessive pesticides through chemical sprays.