Awareness Of And Perceptions Towards Crop Biotechnology: Case Study Of Members Of The Seed Trade Association Of Kenya
This chapter provides a brief background regarding the awareness of and perceptions towards crop biotechnology. The chapter also briefly discusses the application of crop biotechnology and the debate about that application. It also states the problem of the study as well as the theoretical and conceptual frameworks that will underpin it. Since the study population will be drawn from the members of the Seed Trade Association of Kenya (STAK), the chapter also explains what STAK is, when and why it was formed and its membership structure. The significance of the study, ethical considerations and the methods of dissemination of the findings are also presented in this chapter. 1.1 Background of Study Biotechnology may be defined as the use of living things (plants, animals and microbes) to make useful products to benefit human beings, animals and the environment. More scientifically, it can be defined as any technique that uses living organisms, or substances from these organisms, to make or modify a product, to improve plants or animals or to develop micro-organisms (AfricaBio 2007) United Nations (2009), Navarro (2009), Karembu et al (2010) and AfricaBio (2007) define biotechnology from a similar perspective as any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use. United Nations (2009) adds that it is the application of technical and scientific advancement in life science to develop commercial products. Crop biotechnology is part of the new technological trend available to breeders to address intractable agricultural challenges (Navarro 2009). Even so, the technology has attracted considerable polarized and emotional debate (Paarlberg 2008). Various individuals and groups of people have taken opposing positions with regard to crop biotechnology with a view to influencing public opinion and public policy on the matter. Those opposed to biotechnology argue that it is harmful to the environment while on the other hand proponents of crop biotechnology maintain that it is a useful tool that, if responsibly applied, could help to improve agricultural productivity and food security (Karembu et al 2010). Mosier & Ladisch (2011) also argue that biotechnology is the application of scientific and the principles of engineering by biological agents to provide goods and services. From the inception of biotechnology it has maintained a strong tie with society since historically biotechnology has been associated with food addressing preeminent issues such as malnutrition and famine in various parts of the world. Crop biotechnology, also known as genetic engineering of crops, draws its uses and applications from biological sciences such as genetics, biochemistry and cell biology. At the same time it is dependent upon methods as well as knowledge outside the sphere of biology, which include chemical engineering and information technology, among others (Shan 2010). Advances in genetic engineering have brought crop biotechnology to the fore-front showing the significance of science and technology in solving life problems and issues facing the society in a large scale. The technology is bringing changes in the way people live, their health and the environment (Yount 2008).