Scientists in second GMO maize approval bid


Dr. Roy Mugiira, acting chief executive officer of the National Biosafety Authority. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The approval for commercialisation of genetically modified maize now lies with the Cabinet after scientists concluded the field trials and handed the report to the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) for registration.

The acting chief executive officer of the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), Roy Mugiira said a Cabinet memo was prepared early this year by principal secretaries in the line ministries and it is now awaiting approval.

Dr Mugiira said the final decision will be made by the Cabinet given that the 2012 moratorium on importation and growing of GMO products is still in place.

The new request comes four years after former Health Cabinet secretary Cleopa Mailu turned down another request by the researchers to have the GM maize commercialised in the country.

So far Kenya has commercialised planting of the GMO cotton, which is now running for the second year while the field trials for cassava have also been approved.

The National Performance Trials (NPTs) on maize were concluded last year and scientists have now applied for commercial release of this variety to farmers.

“The fate of commercialisation of the GMO maize now lies with the cabinet, which has to give concurrence on whether to approve or not,” said Dr Mugiira.

Scientists from the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) have been pioneering research on GMO maize in Kenya, arguing that it is the remedy for the perennial shortages that the country face.

The research, which was completed recently, showed that the maize, which has been undergoing confined field trials were drought and insect-resistant.

If the variety gets the Cabinet nod, Kephis would have to give it a name and ownership to allow seed multiplication in preparation for release to farmers for growing on a large scale.

Kenya in June last year approved the release of genetically modified cassava for open cultivation, paving the way for commercialisation after five years of research.

NBA gave a green light for open field farming of cassava after years of confined trials, giving hopes to scientists that the approval of GMO maize would be next on the line.

There have been concerns from anti-GMO crusaders over the commercialisation of biotechnology crops in the country.

The task force formed to establish the safety of GMO crops following the ban and influenced by a scientific journal by Seralini that linked GMO crops to cancer recommended the lifting of the prohibition on a case-by-case basis.

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