Farmers urged to adopt modern technology to ensure enough food
Farmers have been advised to be innovative in their farming techniques to ensure that food security is addressed.
The farmers in Kisii County who have been practicing traditional farming methods have, therefore, been advised to embrace Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to maximize productivity on their farms.
The call was made by Vincent Sagwe, Kisii County Executive Member for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperative Development.
Noting that decreasing land sizes posed a major challenge to the objective of realizing optimum yields from crop farming, Sagwe noted that the Kisii County Government welcomed introduction and utilization of genetic engineering technology to ensure the goal of food security was met.
He wondered why there was considerable public debate on the GMO issue yet there is no certainty that genetically modified imported goods have not reached supermarket shelves.
“We cannot be sure whether the imported goods we purchase in the supermarkets are GMOs or not. It’s only that some people don’t want to face reality,” Sagwe reiterated.
He challenged members of the public to accept the technology as an innovation which could be utilized for its benefit in the long term.
According to Sagwe, GMO technology was already in place and actively being utilized within the county and elsewhere within the country.
“We are already using GMOs whether planting them as seeds for our crops or using them to improve our dairy stocks,” Sagwe said, giving an example of artificial insemination centres that were being used in improving cattle breeds within the county and wider republic.
He posed: “Why don’t we hear people complaining about artificial insemination yet when it comes to seeds they raise an alarm?”
Sagwe alluded to the possibility of what he termed as “business wars” as being the real cause of the controversy surrounding the adoption of GMOs.
“If some seed companies or businesses don’t want GMO seeds, they could make some noise to that effect but personally, and as a county government, we welcome the use of GMOs to increase the yield in our farms which are mostly small in sized,” explained Sagwe. He noted: “The hullaballoo on GMOs is largely due to misunderstanding of the technology and vested interests.”
Pointing out that decreasing land sizes were posing a challenge to the maize yield in the county, Sagwe reiterated that the main interest of the Kisii County Government remained food security for its citizens.
“Our interest is in the people getting food to eat,” Sagwe said in response to queries on whether there were safety concerns in the use of the technology.
“If GMO technology is the cheapest and most viable way of increasing harvests, ensuring food security and even providing surplus food reserves for our residents, then we appreciate it as the good news of an advantageous innovation to solve food challenges,” stressed Sagwe.
On the question as to whether the county had established mechanisms to safeguard against health hazards likely to be contained in poorly developed GMOs, Sagwe reiterated that the national government had a department tasked with the responsibility of acting as a watchdog to scrutinize any organic imports into the country in order to detect and resolve possible risks to Kenyans.
“Issues concerning phytosanitary imports are normally handled by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS), which oversees the inspection and quality assessment and management of products being introduced and consumed in the Kenyan market,” explained Sagwe.
“As a county, we have suffered effects of the lethal necrosis virus which reduced our maize crop yields. Some of the genetically modified seed varieties have been developed to eliminate the disease as well as pests such as the stalk borer,” stressed Sagwe. He reiterated: “This is, therefore, beneficial to the county maize farmers’ production efforts.”
Sagwe was categorical in explaining that agricultural policy remained a core function of the national government, with the county governments only coming in to offer input as stakeholders in its drafting and implementation.
Saying the issue of policy was a national government prerogative stretching beyond county level, he revealed that it was not in the county governments’ docket to craft policies governing GMOs and that they were only mandated with the task of extension and development of agriculture, livestock and fisheries’ development.
Sagwe also said that the county government was in regular contact with the Kenya Agricultural Research Organization (KARO) to receive updates, samples and quality advice on the latest, disease resistant varieties of crops grown in the county to enable it to empower farmers with the necessary information on the ones best suited for growing in the region.