With new GMO maize, Kenya poised to become leader in African biotech

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Agricultural biotechnology critics are right to question the potential negative impact of the global dominance of the technology. However, they are wrong to assume that all the biotechnology introduced in emerging nations is driven by the interests of foreign firms.

Kenya is on the cusp of becoming a regional leader in crop biotech. Led by a team largely made of local scientists, the country is about to introduce a new pest-resistant maize variety. Controlling the spotted stem borer using biotechnology will not only reduce Kenya’s food imports, it will also equip the country with new technology.

The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AAFT) have applied to the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) for permission to release the variety in farms.

As argued in the second edition of The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa, the continent has the capacity to leapfrog in a wide range of emerging technologies. The agenda should be guided by local needs and driven by local scientists and entrepreneurs.

The Monsanto Corporation has licensed the Bt trait to AATF royalty-free. Therefore, if approved, the variety will be sold at market rate without the burden of further royalty payments. The arrangement addresses the concern that intellectual property protection could increase seed prices and make them inaccessible to poor farmers.

The migration to biotechnology will favour nations that have the courage to define their priorities, build international partnerships, and create credible regulatory authorities. This is not about being for or against biotech crops. It is about putting dogma aside and being pragmatic.

Read full, original post:  Pest-resistant maize variety opens way for technological advancement

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