Expert calls for GMOs in fight against pest, disease
Pressure is on for the government to embrace genetically modified seeds engineering to ward off threats presented by invasion of pesticide resistant pests and diseases.
At a workshop in Murang’a County, farmers and researchers, under the auspices of Cereals Growers Association (CGA), said maize is under serious threat from the pest, which threatens to destroy 70 per cent of projected harvests.
Mr James Njiru, a senior research officer with CGA alleged that there is evidence attributing the armyworm to laboratory procedures of engineering seeds and where the mischief is to create a thriving market for pesticides.
“It is apparent that this worm has been introduced into maize seeds deliberately by international seed dealers in conjunction with some local dealers to create a market for pesticides from the same dealers,” he said.
He said the tragedy is that no manufacturer has laid their hands on an effective pesticide since any viable solution must be under trial for at least three seasons.
Mr Njiru, therefore, asked the government to adopt genetically modified seeds “where we can easily introduce into the market a variety that has an inbuilt guard against such attacks by specific pesticides”.
He said trials for GMO maize varieties have been successful in Uganda and today have transformed the country into a mass exporter of maize as Kenya grapples with acute shortages.
Water Efficient Maize for Africa is carrying out maize trials in Kasese, Uganda and has so far announced that the genetically modified variety is armyworm resistant.
However, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri (below) has since disputed such science to be the solution to the armyworm pest, arguing that his interaction with European countries that recorded the earliest invasions of this pest have documented evidence that it cannot be neutered by use of any known pesticide so far in the market.
“We can only control it using creative innovation. There is no known armyworm deterrent solution in the market,” he said.
Mr Kiunjuri’s position comes as Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria launched a programme to distribute to his maize farmers free pesticides that he claims to have the ability to fight the worm and which so far have not posted scientifically plausible results.