Africa's agriculture and value addition magazine

Kenya okays GM maize trials, fails to open trade in GM crops

Posted in Food Safety, Regulatory & GMOs

KENYA – Kenya has made an important stride on the path that could eventually enable farmers to access GMO technology by providing “conditional approval for the environmental release” of Bt maize.

In a letter by the country’s National Biosafety Authority released to the public, the Authority has approved the GM maize for “environmental release for the purpose of conducting National Performance Trials and collecting compositional analysis data” only.

However, the authority fails to grant the permission to cultivate, import or placing in the market of crops with GM technology, falling short of meeting the calls of the supporters of GM technology, while probably assuaging those opposed to the introduction of any GM technology in the country.

The approval follows the application last June by the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Organisation (KALRO) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to the NBA to allow the “environmental release, cultivation and placing on the market” of the Bt Maize.

The Cereal Growers Association (CGA), the cereal farmers association in Kenya, has welcomed the move, with the CEO Anthony Kioko saying that following the application “farmers wrote directly to both NBA and CGA with a majority giving supportive comments guided by the belief that adoption of the latest available technology has potential to boost productivity hence farm incomes.”

With the NBA giving an approval, though limited, “it is clear that the farming environment in future will be different,” he added.

The limited release by the NBA has also set stringent conditions that the applicants must adhere to before they can allow the Kenya Plant Health & Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) to conduct the trials, together with other relevant regulatory agencies.

These include the submission of an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report to the country’s environment body, NEMA.

They must also comply to existing national laws and policies and provide a Biosafety Stewardship Program and Monitoring Roadmap for the NBA for approval before they commence these trials.

Kenya, a leading agricultural country in Eastern and Central Africa has grappled with whether or not to allow GM technology, especially for the economically and nutritionally important maize crop, which is relied on by millions of farmers and consumers in the country.

No less than the country’s Vice President, William Ruto, waded into the debate almost two years ago, urging for the adoption of GM technology to boost food security in the country.

Meanwhile, at the upcoming African Food Manufacturing & Safety Summit conference & expo slated for June 8-10, 2016, organized by FoodWorld Media, GMOs will take centre stage, with one of the three key Panel Discussions revolving around how Africa can tap onto the GM technology to boost agricultural productivity, food security and incomes.

"The GM technology argument will have a much bigger impact beyond Africa's agriculture, with the food security dimension and the ability of local millers to compete in the marketplace becoming critical issues that must also be tackled.

Millers can only process what is available from farmers or has been imported into these African countries that continue to dither with regulations around GM technology. We think this conference will provide a good platform for the food and beverage industry in the region to make their voice heard," said the organisers of the conference. 

More information about the event can be found on the website, www.afmass.com