Kenya has approved the release of genetically modified cassava for open cultivation, paving the way for commercialisation after five years of research.
The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) said it has given a green light for open field farming after years of confined trials, the clearest indicator that the approval of GMO maize is next on the line.
Cassava now becomes the first food crop to be approved for field cultivation. The government approved the planting of GMO cotton in 2019 and farmers are at the moment growing the first crop of this variety.
NBA Board approved the application following a necessary review under the country’s Biosafety Act, reversing the 2012 ban as government turns to technology to address food insecurity.
Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation (Kalro) scientists through research, have been developing this variety that is resistant to the brown streak disease, a notorious infection that has for years subjected farmers to total losses.
The approval paves the way for conducting national performance trials of these varieties before registration and release to farmers if the crops regulator finds that it meets all the attributes that scientists have listed.
“The decision was arrived at following a rigorous and thorough review, taking into account food, feed, and environmental safety assessment as well as consideration of socio-economic issues. The review process also factored public comments for 30 days,” said NBA chief executive Dorington Ogoyi.
Kalro director-general Eliud Kireger welcomed the move by NBA saying it is significant to getting disease-resistant cassava into the hands of Kenyan farmers to address food security challenges.
“We thank the NBA and all those who participated in the review for their diligent consideration of the application,” said Dr Kireger.
The approved cassava was developed using modern biotechnology and evaluated for five years in confined field trials in three different locations – Mtwapa (Kilifi), Kandara (Murang’a) and Alupe (Busia).