Lab-made pyrethrin will hi t Kenyan growers

Published: Saturday 15 August 1992

AGRIDYNE Technologies, a US biotechnology company, recently announced a major project involving the genetic-engineering of pyrethrins, an insecticidal compound derived from the pyrethrum flower ( Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium). The US $3 million, three-year project is expected to produce unlimited" supplies of pyrethrin, an environmentally friendly insecticide, in the laboratory.

According to the Ottawabased NGO, Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), this project, if successful, could spell disaster for nearly two lakh pyrethrum growers in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ecuador and Australia, especially in view of USA being the world's largest importer of the flower.

Kenya, which supplies over two-thirds of the world's US $100 million annual trade in natural pyrethrum, has about one lakh small-scale farmers growing the flower on approximately 16,000 ha of land. Kenya also has a pyrethrum Board that manages the processing and marketing of the flower along with running an active research programme. The board has developed cloned, higher-yielding pyrethrum varieties which are more disease resistant and have greater uniform flowering.

Kenya's use of cultured pyrethrum plants has often been cited as an example of the benefits biotechnology can bring to Third Wor1d agriculture.

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