Maize farmers accuse NEMA over delay of new seed variety

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Mr Nahashon Ongole a maize farmer who is a member of the CGA addressing the press in Likuyani Sub County
Mr Nahashon Ongole a maize farmer who is a member of the CGA addressing the press in Likuyani Sub County

Grain farmers in Western region want the government to fast track biotechnological research and release of a new maize seed variety into the market before the next planting season.

Under the national umbrella of Cereal Growers Association (CGA), the farmers drawn from Kakamega, Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties are blaming the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) for the delay in the certification of Bascillus Thuringiences (BT) maize seed variety.

Speaking to the press on behalf of the group after a meeting held at Soy Highway Motel in Likuyani Sub County, the farmers’ spokesperson Mr. Nahashon Ong’ole said though the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) had given the new variety a clean bill of health, NEMA was yet to submit environmental impact assessment report on the same.

“We are deeply concerned that the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has refused to grant KALRO the environmental impact assessment report permit so that it can complete the research, citing a cabinet ban on the importation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) foods into the country,” remarked Ong’ole.

The farmer added, “As farmers, we are convinced the insect-protected BT maize is safe for human consumption because it has been safely grown, eaten and sold by farmers all over the globe.”

He cited South Africa, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, as among countries where farmers have been planting seeds containing the BT component for over 25 years.

According to CGA, access to the said seed variety helps mitigate devastating impacts of climate change as well as control maize diseases and pests, especially the stem borer, “Which continue to ravage the crop, leading to a loss of millions of shillings in damages,”
added Ong’ole.

In a signed petition, the farmers have appealed to concerned authorities, including the Ministries of Environment, Health and Agriculture, the Parliament and the Office of the President.

“We urge the cited authorities to help fast-track the process of completing research on insect resistant maize and other products so that they can be released to the farmers to help mitigate impacts of climate change and improve food security,” reads part of the petition.

The petition further demands immediate government lifting of the ban on GMO products.