Kenya is on the brink of embracing biotechnology in agriculture.

The MIT Technology Review made the claim in October: Kenya is thought to be on the brink of reversing its ban on GM imports.

The news and commentary website Grist said it in June: Kenya is on the brink of approving GMOs.

Ive been saying it myself for years: On the brink. On the brink. On the brink.

Now Im ready to say something new: Weve been on the brink for too long.

Many Kenyan farmers, like me, had hoped that 2016 finally would be the year that our National Environment Management Authority allows open field trials of Bt maizea variety of genetically modified crop that has become common around the world. It protects plants from certain insect pests, giving us a natural way to defend our harvests from a major threat.

Ive seen farmers grow it in other countries and Id like to grow it on my farm too. It would allow me to produce more food for my family and country.

And yet our government dilly dallies, as it has for years. On November 30, the Kenyan National Assembly slowed us down even more when they upheld the ban imposed on importation of GMO food by the then Minister for Public Health, Beth Mugo in 2012.

If NEMA had given its approval to Bt maize this year, thousands of smallholder farmers might have been able to take advantage of this technologywhich is standard and even taken for granted in the United States and elsewhereas soon as 2017 or 2018.

en comptes, we continue to wait.

On the brink.

Our delay comes with a consequence. It means that were choosing to squander a promising opportunity. It means that were still plagued with scientific ignorance. It means that once again, an African nation continues to lag behind the world in everything, from the adoption of technology to the simple challenge of feeding its own people.

Of even greater concern is the reality that our university students are threatening to stop taking biotechnology classes because they fear the ongoing government ban on the import of GMO food crops, originated in 2012 and recently upheld by the Kenyan National Assembly on November 30, 2016 would render them unemployable in their own country.

My hope, and that of many Kenyan scientists and farmers, is that well turn this aroundand that within five years, Kenya will become a leader among African nations in the adoption of biotechnology. The planting of GM maize and cotton should become commonplace, leading to increased production, more economic activity, and better food security.

Dr. Gilbert arap Bor being presented the 2011 Kleckner Award by it’s namesake, Dean Kleckner.

Then again, Ive been thinking this for yearsand telling everybody who will listen that Kenya is on the brink.

Three Sub-Saharan African countries already permit the planting of GMO crops: Burkina Faso, South Africa, and Sudan. Theyve gone over the brink. Tanzania and Uganda appear ready to join them.

And Kenya? Its the largest and most influential country in East Africa. Other countries look to us for leadership.

On GMOs, were poised to show the way. We know the science. Weve issued the basic regulatory approvals, through our National Biosafety Authority. Weve set up collaborative partnerships with the Africa Agricultural Technology Foundation and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization.

Our government also has proposed a development agendaVision 2030that calls for increased agricultural production.

Yet we refuse to take the next step forward. We dawdle on the brink.

Im tired of the brink. Our population now numbers 46 million and its growing. We can barely feed ourselves, as subsistence farming employs about three-quarters of the population in labor-intensive, low-mechanization, and low-productivity farming. Famine currently afflicts 5 million of our countrymen and the emerging threat of climate change suggests that our challenges only will grow.

We need GMOs. They wont make our problems vanish, but theyll help us confront the difficulties that lie ahead. Well do better with them than without them.

The African continent missed the Green Revolutionthe adoption of seed technologies and other inputs that spurred large increases in food production in India, Mexico, and elsewhere in the 1960s and 1970s. Ever since, Kenya and its neighbors have suffered. Today, Africa is the only continent with more malnourished people compared with three decades ago.

We cannot afford to miss the Gene Revolution as well. If we do, well never produce enough food and fiber for our people. We wont industrialize as we should. We wont break the cycle of African desperation.

Well be doomed to our sad fate.

There is an obvious solution. Its simple and sensible. Say it with me: Lets get off the brink.