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Kenya says more tests and safeguards are needed before genetically modified (GM) maize seeds can be grown commercially in the country.
In a decision issued February 9, the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) approved the crop’s environmental release only for field trials and under conditions.
“We are taking all the precautionary measures to ensure the variety is safe for human consumption and for the environment,” the NBA’s CEO, Willy Tonui, tells SciDev.Net.
The NBA ruled on an authorisation request filed in June 2015 by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation for maize seeds modified to be resistant to insect pests, manufactured by the company Monsanto under the name MON810.
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While GM crop advocates were hoping that the state body would approve the seeds’ release on the market, the agency’s approval does not extend to the seeds’ cultivation, importation or sale.
The authority granted a conditional approval for environmental release only “for the purpose of conducting National Performance Trials and collecting compositional analysis data”, the NBA writes in a statement.
Although limited, this approval is good news for scientists, says Richard Oduor, a plant geneticist at Kenyatta University who was not involved in the application.
Oduor adds that the decision will help spur GM technology in Kenya, and shows the importance of the NBA’s role. The agency has “validated that the country has regulatory capacity,” he says. “Despite some resistance that GMOs face, we have a neutral body that will be making science-based decisions.”
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The NBA is also examining a similar application to grow a pest-resistant GM cotton.
Read full, original post: Kenya approves limited GM maize release