Scientists to release biotech maize, cotton varieties in Kenya

Kenyan scientists have used modern biotechnology to develop two crop varieties that are expected to be released in the country soon.

Simon Gichuki of the Kenya Agricultural, Livestock Research Organization’s (KALRO) Biotechnology Research Institute (BioRI) said that the maize and cotton varieties are already awaiting the National Performance Trials before they can be released for field trials, while gypsophilla flower will follow soon.

“The products have been produced within the country by local scientists where risk assessment has been done in accordance with the law,” he said during an agricultural biotechnology sensitization workshop in Nairobi on Friday.

Gichuki noted that genetically modified drought- and pest-resistant cassava, sorghum and sweet potato are due to be complete soon.

Julia Njagi, a biosafety officer at the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), revealed that the authority has approved 24 crop varieties for laboratory and greenhouse trials, 14 for Confined Field Trials (CFT) and three for environmental trials.

She added that the two varieties are pending approval and are at the laboratory and environmental release stages.

Research on Bt cotton was completed in 2002-2012 and approved by NBA for National Performance Trials (NPT) by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS).

Insect-resistant and drought-tolerant maize variety has also been approved and is undergoing NPT by KEPHIS experts. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

-Published in NewsGhana.  See original article link here.

Kenyan scientists seek more funding for biotechnology research

NAIROBI (Xinhua) — A Kenyan scientist on Wednesday called on the government to increase funding for agricultural biotechnology to help empower women scientists.

Professor Caroline Thoruwa, the Chairperson of African Women in Science and Engineering said additional funding could help enhance the participation of women in science whose number is currently small.

“Additional funding will help empower women’s participation in modern science especially Genetically Modified Organization that is the current innovation in agriculture,” she said in an inaugural women in biosciences forum in Nairobi.

Thoruwa called on the government to increase awareness on biotechnology by reaching women in all parts of the country.

“It is time to tell the public about the positive side of biotechnology.

“We need to raise up the status of women in biotechnology and also encourage women to network in order to achieve the noble goal of sharing their science,” she said.

Felister Makini, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization Deputy Director General urged the government to make farming easier to women by providing them with modern tools such as biotechnology.

“Biotechnology can help African women since they form majority of farmers and suffer most during drought and food shortages,” she noted.

Makini said that drought and perennial hunger should be a thing of the past since the technology that could be of great help exists.

Margaret Karembu, Director, The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications AfriCenter hailed Kenya’s intention to revive the textile industry by introducing disease resistant and drought tolerant Bt cotton.

“Despite demonstrated will and long history of safe use, conflicting messages between different ministries and regulatory agencies were hampering progress in delivering the technology to farmers,” Karembu said.

She called on women scientists to intensify engagement with government and help clarify long-standing misconceptions on the technology.

-Published in coastalweek.com.  See original article link here.

African trading bloc ready to embrace transgenic products

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member countries on Wednesday expressed their readiness for the development and importation of genetically modified organism (GMO) products in the region.

Getachew Belay, COMESA Senior Biotechnology Policy Advisor, said the Africa’s largest trading bloc has experts and laboratories for testing GMOs.

“The region has trained scientists and some are currently working in other continents due to lack of developed systems in biotechnology development,” Belay told Xinhua in Nairobi on Wednesday.

He said the 19-member bloc has taken biotechnology seriously by putting down infrastructures as per the recommendations of the Cartagena protocol.

The countries are currently cooperating in creating an enabling environment for external, cross-border and domestic investment, including the joint promotion of research and adaptation of science and technology for development.

Belay said COMESA provides a technical opinion about the biosafety of GMOs seeking commercial status in the COMESA region, which can be used by individual countries to make decisions within their own biosafety regulatory frameworks, and also a harmonized mechanism for decision-making involving commercial planting, trade of GMOs and food aid with GM content in the COMESA region.

He noted that COMESA has helped member states share and build capacity to conduct risk assessment and management. It also established interactive regional information-sharing mechanism on biosafety and biotechnology issues.

Margaret Karembu, Director of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), said whereas several countries are making profits from biotechnology, African countries are still lagging behind due to unpredictable political and policy environment in supporting biotechnology research.

“Costly regulatory processes coupled with miscommunication of the technology are to blame for Africa’s slow uptake of the technology,” she noted.

Sudan is the only country in the region that is currently growing GMO. It has 100,000 acres under such crops since 2012 when the technology was introduced. Currently 97 percent of farmers are growing the GMO variety.

Kenya, Swaziland, Uganda and Malawi are at confined field trial stages for Bt. cotton, Bt. maize, virus-resistant cassava and sweet potatoes, bacterial-wilt-resistant banana and drought-tolerant water-efficient maize.

-Written by Peter Mutai (Xinhua, Nairobi) in Coastweek.com.  See original article link here.

Kenya: Agricultural Biotechnology Annual

Kenya’s progress in agricultural biotechnology has suffered a setback after the National Assembly’s Agriculture committee recommended that a new food safety law on genetically engineered (GE) products be put in place, before the 2012 import ban is lifted. The Agriculture committee’s move follows an earlier decision by Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to retract the open field trials license for Bt corn.

Kenya: Agricultural Biotechnology Annual

Published by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service as its Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) Report. View article link here.