Kenya approves GMO cassava for agriculture after years of research


Kenya approves GMO cassava for agriculture after years of research

Thursday June 24th 2021

A woman weeds cassava on a kalro farm. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya has cleared genetically modified cassava for open cultivation and paved the way for commercialization after five years of research.

The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) announced that it has given the green light to outdoor growing after years of limited trials, the clearest indicator that GMO corn approval is next on the way.

Cassava is now the first food crop to be approved for field cultivation. The government approved the cultivation of GMO cotton in 2019 and farmers are currently growing the first crop of this variety.

The NBA board approved the request after a required review under the country’s Biosafety Act, reversing the 2012 ban as the government turns to technology to tackle food insecurity.

Scientists at the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (Kalro), through research, developed this strain that is resistant to Brown Streak disease, a notorious infection that has caused total loss to farmers for years.

Approval paves the way for national performance testing of these varieties to be carried out prior to registration and release to farmers when the plant regulatory agency determines that they meet all of the characteristics listed by scientists.

“The decision was made after a rigorous and thorough assessment that took into account both food, feed and environmental impact assessments, as well as socio-economic aspects. The review process also took into account public comments for 30 days, ”said NBA chief Dorington Ogoyi.

Kalro General Manager Eliud Kireger welcomed the NBA’s move, saying it was important to get disease-resistant cassava into the hands of Kenyan farmers to address food security challenges.

“We thank the NBA and everyone who participated in the review for carefully reviewing the application,” said Dr. Kireger.

The approved cassava was developed using modern biotechnology and evaluated for five years in close field tests at three different locations – Mtwapa (Kilifi), Kandara (Murang’a) and Alupe (Busia).

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