by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – KENYA’S lifting of the ban on cultivating and importing genetically modified (GM) white maize is poised to enhance food security in the East African country.
The decision comes as the region faces its worst drought in decades.
It also comes weeks after a new administration assumed office in September after elections held the previous month.
“I don’t know much about Kenya’s new president, William Ruto, but I already like his approach to agriculture,” said economist Wandile Sihlobo.
He noted the decision by Ruto was apt, as the president is a scientist with a PhD.
His government made this change on GMO in response to growing food insecurity in Kenya.
“The country has struggled with drought in the recent past and remains a net importer of maize,” Sihlobo said.
He is an economist with the South African-based Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz).
Sihlobo noted there would be an assessment of each GM trait by the Kenyan Biosafety Authority before actual imports and cultivation can occur.
“Assuming some of this scientific legwork has already been done, we could see imports start in the next few months.”
Kenya needs to import a substantial volume of maize, estimated at about 700 000 tonnes.
In the 2021/2022 season several sub-Saharan African countries, including South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe had ample maize harvests, which enabled them to meet Kenya’s import needs.
However, harvests in some of these countries decreased in the current season.
South Africa the most abundant supply of maize at present, with maize exports for the 2022/2023 season forecast at 3,5 million tonnes.
South Africa has struggled to access the Kenyan market for years because of its ban on imports of GM products.
But Ruto’s move has changed all that, offering a new opportunity for South Africa,” Sihlobo said.
The adoption of GM crops is increasing globally.
In June, the Chinese National Crop Variety Approval Committee released two standards that clear the path for cultivating GM crops.
The European Union is also reviewing its regulations on cultivating and importing GM crops.
South Africa was an early adopter of GM technologies.
It began planting GM maize seeds in 2001/2002.
– CAJ News