Moses Rugutt has been appointed the secretary and chief executive officer of the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (Nacosti) for a five-year term.
In a letter to Dr Rugutt, who has been at the helm of the commission in acting capacity, the Education Cabinet secretary Prof Jacob Kaimenyi said he assumes office immediately.
“I have the pleasure of appointing you substantially as the secretary/chief executive officer of the National Commission for Science and Technology and Innovation with immediate effect,” said Prof Kaimenyi in the letter dated December 1.
Dr Rugutt has been the acting head since early this year.
During his unveil as new chief, Nacosti Board chairperson Prof Njeri Wamae said Kenya should not accept to be left behind in biotechnology development.
“We are living in a global village and we cannot allow Kenya to be left behind in biotechnology development,” said Prof Wamae noting that those who are training biotechnology in the universities still have a role to play despite the GM food ban.
The government instituted a ban on importation of genetically modified food in November 2012, following global debates on its safety, given claims that it increases chances of getting cancer.
The Ministry of Health then established a taskforce with the mandate to evaluate the health effects of GM foods, which was chaired by Prof Kihumbu Thairu. The taskforce report was handed to the Health Cabinet secretary James Macharia in July who later forwarded it to the Cabinet for review.
Scientists in the country have been pushing the government drop the ban as well as release the findings of the taskforce report.
The scientists have lamented that donors and other partners in the biotechnology sector were developing cold feet to offer support due to the ban as the findings of ongoing field trials cannot be put into practice.
Dr Rugutt said the legal framework for the setting up of a research fund was being worked on and expressed confidence that the government will support the initiative with more financial allocation.
“The framework will help ensure that the funds we will get from the government is properly used as we target the two per cent of the GDP requirement for the research sector,” said the chief executive officer.
He regretted that funding of research in the country is still not sufficient noting that its only South Africa in the continent that has realised the two per cent allocation to research.
Kenya requires Sh100 billion to establish a national research system that will meet its socio-economic and industrial needs but only allocates Sh400 million, which is about 0.5 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The fund, established under the Science and Technology Innovation Act, 2013 will facilitate research for the advancement of science, technology and innovation.