Kenya distributes free GMO Bt insect-resistant cotton seeds to farmers to revive nation’s flagging textile industry

uganda cotton
Credit: Fast Company

The government has started the distribution of free cotton seeds to farmers, including a genetically modified variety, in the latest push to revive the cotton industry in the country. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, 16 metric tonnes of hybrid seeds and one metric tonne of BT cotton seeds will be distributed across 24 counties.The consignment is …. expected to produce over 2,000kg of cotton per hectare against the current average yield of 572kg per hectare.

Kenya now joins six other African countries – South Africa, Sudan, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria and Kingdom of eSwatini – in commercial cultivation of insect-resistant, genetically modified Bt cotton.The Cabinet approved commercial farming of the genetically improved cotton on December 19 last year in a plan to revitalize the country’s cotton, textile, and apparel sector. Though the approval did not specifically address Kenya’s 2012 ban on GM crops, it was seen as having opened the door to other GM crops.

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Bt cotton has been improved with the ability to resist the African bollworm, the single most destructive cotton pest, causing up to 100 percent loss. With the cotton variety, Kenyan farmers will enjoy a four-fold reduction in production costs.

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