Kenya gives nod for Bt cotton

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THE Kenyan Cabinet, chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta, has approved the commercial planting of Bt cotton after the 5-year field trials showed positive results. The biotech crop is expected to increase the cotton production of Kenyan farmers and thus boost the manufacturing pillar of the Big 4 Agenda where it is stated that Kenya aims to be at the forefront of global textile and apparel production.

Researchers from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization had announced that Bt cotton seeds will be available to farmers in 27 cotton-growing counties, by March 2020. The Bt cotton is developed through genetic engineering to confer resistance to African boll worm infestation.

According to the Fibre Crop Directorate, Kenya has about 50,000 cotton farmers who are only able to produce 30,000 bales against a yearly demand of 368,000 bales. Adoption of Bt cotton, which is resistant to the destructive African bollworm, is expected to boost productivity from the current estimate of 572 kg/ha to 2,500 kg/ ha, and lower the cost of production by 40%.

In 2018, biotech cotton was planted in 15 countries led by India, USA, China, Pakistan, and Brazil.