KITALE, Kenya, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Kenya is on course to commercialize biotech maize that is both resistant to drought and the stem borer pest in 2019, researchers said on Thursday.
Team leader for the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) Kenya Murenga Mwimali told Xinhua in Kitale in northwest Kenya that they have successfully completed the first planting season for transgenic maize under the Confined Field Trials (CFTs).
"The results that we have achieved are very positive and therefore Kenya is on course to make the seeds available to farmers in 2019," Mwimali said during a field trip to the Kenya Livestock and Agriculture (KALRO) site in Kitale when CFT tests are currently under way.
The WEMA project is a public private partnership conducted jointly by a number of partners including KALRO, African Agricultural Technology Foundation and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.
Scientists are currently planting the second season under the CFTs to determine the efficiency of the Genetically Modified (GM) maize against the stem borer pest.
After the CFTs, the scientists will then apply to the National Environmental Management Authority for a license to conduct open cultivation trials.
"We are confident that we will get the necessary approvals so that we can proceed with the experiments," Mwimali said.
The transgenic maize will be tested to determine its efficacy in both middle altitude and low altitude environment.
Studies conducted by the researchers, indicate that the GM maize variety has a 40 percent higher yield as compared to conventional maize varieties.
Mwimali, who is also a Maize Breeder at KALRO, said that if the Bt maize is fully adapted by the Kenyan farmers, it could save the country 80 million U.S. dollars annually by reducing crop losses.
In 2012, Kenya banned the importation of GM food imports into the country.