What you need to know:
- Many companies already in the apparel industry could supply high quality, locally produced fabric.
- GMO cotton will end up on our plates, because it is used to make cottonseed oil and cotton seed cake (used for animal feeds).
During the inauguration of the new Rivatex Centre at Moi University, President Kenyatta reiterated his government’s commitment to honour and keep its word to the people.
The reopening of Rivatex, the once giant textile firm, is no doubt a laudable initiative and investment towards economic growth.
Rivatex is expected to employ more than 3,000 youths and impact more than 100,000 farmers who will be supplying it with cotton fibre.
The revamped factory also signifies the government’s commitment to build robust and competitive local production whilst encouraging investment in the sector.
Many companies already in the apparel industry could supply high quality, locally produced fabric.
However, Rivatex management pointed out that the missing link to making the project successful is low supply of raw material – cotton fibre – by farmers. Speakers attributed this to lack of technical know-how, capacity and “poor varieties”.
But, what are the government’s plans to ensure that farmers are in a good position to supply cotton fibre and get a share of this hot, newly baked cake? One would expect improved extension services; storage facilities; price regulation and contracting to ensure fair and stable prices.
It appears the government is offering none of these. Instead, farmers are likely to be offered expensive GM (Bt) cotton seeds produced by giant multinational companies.
It is important to note that the abbreviation “Bt” was corrupted at the ceremony to mean biotechnology cotton. This is incorrect.
Bt stands for Bacillus thuringiensis, which is a naturally occurring bacteria that produces a toxin that kills pests, including cotton leaf worm.
Genes from the bacteria are infused into the cotton genome in the lab at molecular level.
This process is called genetic modification and falls within the broader family of biotechnology sciences but has a clear distinction from other biotechnology practices and technologies. It is also falsely argued that it is a form of breeding.
The biggest mistake Kenya could ever make is to believe that the commercialisation of Bt Cotton is a “direct intervention” to solve the problems of farmers and their livelihoods.
GM cotton, which has been commercialised in some African countries, has failed to meet its much-hyped efficiency and production potential.
Kenyans have a right to know and understand more about this technology. They have a right to decide on whether to allow GMOs on our farms and plates.
GMO cotton will end up on our plates, because it is used to make cottonseed oil and cotton seed cake (used for animal feeds).
We cannot talk about sustainable livelihoods and at the same time undermine the ability of farmers to own, use and freely breed indigenous seeds.
Locally produced seeds, which are better adapted to our environment, allow farmers to mitigate against the effects of climate change and increasingly unpredictable market trends.
Pest management can be easily controlled through functional biodiversity, and integrated organic practices.
Despite ongoing research and without certainty on the outcomes, the best actions the government can take are to give farmers access to conventional seeds; provide reliable extension services and ensure proper management of buying agreements with manufacturers.
Published at Daily Nation