The push for the introduction of genetically modified cotton has intensified in Kenya in the last few months. The GMO proponents are promoting Bt cotton as a crop for fibre and textiles only. However, as it has been done in other countries, only 40 percent of the Bt cotton will be for textile production.
The larger 60 percent of the Bt cotton will be extracted as cotton seed oil, cotton seed cake and straw for animal feeds. From this, we can see a greater percentage of the Bt cotton will end up in the food chain – for human consumption.
The supporters argue that tests done on these crops have ascertained their safety on humans and the environment, a claim that is factually erroneous going by the inconclusive scientific findings of studies on GMO safety.
Studies in France have shown that contrary to popular beliefs that are pushed by the giant multinationals promoting the genetically engineered Bacillus Thuringensis, the Bt does not integrate naturally in the environment but has been found in water and the environment as much as 30 years after use.
Bt cotton is being presented as the panacea for the revival of the textile industry but was poor quality seeds the reason for the collapse of the cotton sector in the 1980s?
The answer is no – the reason was the mismanagement of the ginneries leading to the farmers not getting paid for their deliveries of cotton. It was never about the conventional cotton seeds that were in use then.
When Burkina Faso introduced Bt cotton in 2008, the cost of the seeds was dramatically high, beyond the reach of a small-scale farmer. In practical terms, while the conventional variety is sold for Kshs. 121, the Bt cotton seed equivalent would go for Sh4,500 for an equivalent quantity.
In other words, the new cost was a whopping 37 times more expensive.
When you lift the veil on the cost breakdown, you discover that the multinationals controlling the Bt cotton seed get 63 per cent of the cost of the seed. In a country like ours where over 70 percent of farmers’ are small-scale, it goes without saying that the cost of the seed will be prohibitively high for them. The Burkinabes have also recently abandoned the GM varieties which have over the years resulted in shorter fibres which are of low quality compared to the country’s conventional cotton.
It is reported that the farmers got nearly Sh306 million ($3 million) in compensation due to the quality problems in two seasons.
In South Africa, the challenges that Bt cotton farmers of the Makhatini Flats have faced are well documented despite the PR exercise that tries to paint a different picture.
Further, it has been proven that pesticide use actually increases to curb the emergence of secondary pests.
I am reliably informed that in the areas where the National Performance Trials are taking place, a lot of measures are being put in place to ensure the Bt cotton is a success to the extent of water being drawn from rivers to irrigate the Bt cotton field.
If huge amounts of water is needed, will the Bt cotton do well in dry areas like Makueni? Are we looking at a case like Galana Kulalu where millions of shillings were poured into a sinking hole?
Has the government considered all these issues and if so, how does it plan to deal with them?
Once Bt cotton is accepted, the next step will be the introduction of other food crops like Bt maize and GM Soya into the food system.
Whichever way you look at it, the main beneficiaries will be the multinationals who will effectively take over the seed and food industry in Africa. If this happens, will we continue depending on subsidies and for how long?
Clearly, there are more questions to this issue than answers and we should therefore not rush to blindly adopt a technology that we have not fully understood, are not prepared for and one that has clearly failed and been rejected elsewhere.
There are better, safer and sustainable solutions that we can adopt to address food insecurity issues and revive the textile industry to protect and uphold Kenyans’ well-being.
Anne Maina, national co-ordinator, Kenya Biodiversity Coalition.
World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021
World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.
“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.
He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.
The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.
People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.
For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.
Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.
“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.
Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans
The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.
“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”
According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.
Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans
The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.
Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.
Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.
Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options.
This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.
The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.
The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.
The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).
The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.
The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour; Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).
The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.
Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”
He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.