The Government of Kenya has given the clearest indication yet that it will soon lift a ban on importation of genetically modified foods as it seeks to address the shortage and unaffordability of animal feeds in the country. Speaking in Nairobi during a national dialogue on building a sustainable animal feed system in the country, Livestock Principal Secretary (PS) Harry Kimtai hinted that the Government will address the ban and approval of GM crops on a case-by-case basis.
The Livestock PS revealed the Government has developed a biotech crop Post-Release Monitoring Framework in readiness for the lifting of the ban and adoption of Bt maize once it is approved for cultivation. “The Post-Release Monitoring Framework on Bt Maize will be sufficient in safeguarding human health as the country considers lifting the GM food import ban,” said PS Kimtai.
The lifting of the ban, imposed in 2012, will be a great relief to Kenya’s livestock farmers who are currently staring at a bleak future following a dire shortage of the feeds.
To sustainably resolve the feed crisis, the Government has put in place a strategy that will ensure Bt cotton seed cake is approved for use as animal feed. The PS said Kenya is banking on a home-grown intervention to address the feed challenge by incentivizing farmers and investors to produce the feeds locally.
The PS said the Government is keen to utilize arid and semi-arid land (ASAL), which comprises about 85% of the country’s landmass, to produce forage crops and address a shortfall of about 500,000 tons of animal feeds. It emerged that 10,000 acres have been set aside for fodder production at the Gulana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme located in the country’s coastal region.
“The cost of animal feeds has gone up affecting profitability of the livestock sub-sector. By setting aside land and making full utilization of ASALs to grow forage, enough feeds will be produced at affordable prices,” he said.
The PS affirmed Government’s support on biotechnology saying the technology offers a great opportunity in addressing feed scarcity in the country. PS Kimtai said once Bt maize is approved for commercialization, the Government will leverage on it for production of animal feeds.
“We put our trust on scientists to give us climate-smart seeds. Biotechnology plays a key role in development of clean seeds,” he remarked. He appealed to farmers to embrace approved technologies such as crop biotechnology.
Speaking during the forum, Dr. Martin Kinoti, the Secretary General of the Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers, asked the Government to allow immediate duty-free importation of animal feed raw materials from the global market as a short-term intervention
ISAAA AfriCenter Director Dr. Margaret Karembu said the country should draw valuable lessons on the success of animal feed system from countries that have already embraced biotech crops. “India, with an adoption of 12 million hectares of Bt cotton, has been able to revolutionize their livestock sub-sector by using cotton seed cake to produce animal feeds.
Jennifer Koome, a farmer and co-founder of Daiichi Pig Farm observed that the Kenya’s feed crisis can only be resolved through a multi-stakeholder approach. “As farmers, we look for cheaper but safer feeds that are readily available all round,” she said.
The national dialogue was organized by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB-Kenya) and partners.
Stakeholders at the dialogue proposed a raft of recommendations for building a sustainable feed system in the country. Among the proposed action points include enhancement Kenya’s capacity to produce feed crops through revitalization of local production of maize, wheat and barley and restoration of oil crop development, such as sunflower and cotton. Local large scale production of soybean through contracting was also deemed viable.
The dialogue also proposed for a review of legislation with a view to allowing utilization of genetically modified (GM) products such as maize, soybean, sunflower and cotton seedcake for animal feed raw materials, within the internationally peer-reviewed recommendations.
A need to intensify public engagement on agricultural biotechnology through regular National Dialogues and media engagement was also suggested among other recommendations.
|Media stories from the dialogue:
For more information, contact Dr. Margaret Karembu at firstname.lastname@example.org