With the signing of the biosafety regulations by the Government of Kenya (GOK), Kenyan scientists are ready to move ahead to the next level, with Bt cotton commercialization envisioned by 2014.
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USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
Required Report - public distribution
GAIN Report Number:
Agricultural Biotechnology Annual
Kenya Biotechnology Update Report
With the signing of the biosafety regulations by the Government of Kenya (GOK), Kenyan scientists are
ready to move ahead to the next level, with Bt cotton commercialization envisioned by 2014. Although
the three (out of a possible eight) signed biosafety regulations deal with placing Genetically Modified
Organisms (GMO) on the market, contained use, and import/export and transit, it remains unclear how
Kenyan authorities will handle trade of agricultural biotechnology products. It is hoped that the signed
biosafety regulations will be published soon. Reportedly, the GOK plans to draft labeling regulations.
Section I. Executive Summary
In addition to the formation of the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) in May 2010, the GOK
published the commencement of the ?Biosafety Act 2009? on July 1, 2011 and signed three sets of
biosafety regulations, paving way for possible commercialization of biotechnology crops within the next
three years. It is hoped that the biosafety regulations will be published soon. While Kenyan scientists
appreciate the efforts by the government, it is too early to comment on how the three biosafety
regulations, namely application for contained use, environmental release, and import/export will be
implemented. Reportedly, Kenyan regulators are considering drafting labeling regulations that will
require all biotechnology products be labeled. Presently, the GOK requires labeling on all GMO plant
products. In addition, the GOK agencies responsible for labeling of food and non-food materials may
view GMO labeling in the same manner. Kenya?s intended labeling regulation may change as Kenya
develops its own GMO products (i.e. Bt cotton and Bt maize) and realizes that they are scientifically the
same with the non GMO products.
As a result of the 2011 drought and high food prices, the GOK allowed importation of duty-free maize,
including genetically modified (GM) maize to help alleviate the current food shortage in the country.
However for fear of possible propagation, only registered millers with written approval from NBA (the
GOK agency responsible for the implementation of the Biosafety Act) are allowed to import GM maize.
So far no registered miller has indicated GM maize importation interests, largely due to the ongoing
debate that has instilled fear among the Kenyan consumers. The prevailing food shortage brought GM
issues to focus leading to a lot of debate for and against the technology. Amidst the debate on
biotechnology, Kenyan biotechnology scientists, some regulatory institutions, and farmer organizations
have added their voices on the importance of adopting the technology. The recurrent debate on GMO
has resurfaced the need for more education on biotechnology, and its benefits and misinformation.
In the report here below, FAS/Nairobi has updated, to a greater or lesser degree, all of the Sections of
the 2010 report.
Section II. Plant Biotechnology Trade and Production
With the new biosafety regulations, all GMO products imported into Kenya require written approval
from NBA. The new agriculture biotechnology regulations address import and transit of GMO products.
The GOK also requires labeling and reportedly NBA is in the process of drafting labeling requirements.
At the moment it remains unclear how Kenyan authorities will address trade in biotechnology events.
The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) provided the information for the following table (it
may not capture all of the trials currently being conducted in Kenya). While some of the table entries
may involve gene modification using modern agriculture biotechnology, others may be using more
?traditional? methods including tissue culture and hybridization.
Crop Year Current Collaborators
Bio Cassava Plus. Beta 2003 Confined KARI, and Danforth Center (USA)
carotene enhancement gene Field Trial
Improved Maize for African 2010 CFT planned KARI and Pioneer
Soils (IMAS). Developing in 1 to 2
transgenic nitrogen- use- years time
Disease resistant banana March Lab and International Livestock Research Institute
2011 green house (ILRI)
Genetic modification for yam March Lab and ILRI
for nematode resistance 2011 green house
Insect resistance Pigeon Pea March Lab and Kenya University
2011 green house
Insect resistant sweet potato April Lab and Kenyatta University
2010 green house
Insect-resistant corn 2001 CFT KARI, CIMMYT, Syngenta Foundation,
leaves Rockefeller Foundation and Monsanto
Insect-resistant Cotton 2003 CFT KARI, and Monsanto
Virus-resistant cassava (Virus 2003 CFT KARI, Danforth Center (USA), and
Resistant Cassava for Africa USAID/ABSP 11
Africa Biofortified sorghum 2005 & CFT Africa Harvest, Pioneer, KARI, and AATF
Water efficient, drought- 2008 CFT AATF, CIMMYT, Monsanto and National
resistant corn. Water Efficient agricultural research systems in Kenya.
Maize for Africa (WEMA) Funding provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates
and the Howard G. Buffett foundations
Virus-resistant sweet potato 1998 CFT KARI, Monsanto, USAID, ARC-VOPI (South
Africa), and Danforth Center (USA)
Reportedly, the Virus resistant sweet potato project will be discontinued due to lack of funding and
Section III. Plant Biotechnology Policy
The NBA is now the government agency responsible for the implementation of the biosafety Act, as
well as International biotechnology agreements such as the Cartagena Protocol. The National Council
for Science and Technology established the NBA to develop agricultural biotechnology policies and
review applications to begin field trials and eventually commercialization. Participation on the NBA
includes representatives from Government Ministries, as well as scientists from civil society and the
GOK ministries and roles on the NBA include the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, Ministry of
Agriculture, which oversees the introduction, testing and use of biotechnology plants and seeds; the
Ministry of Health and the Kenya Bureau of Standards, which regulate food safety; and the Ministry of
Environment and Natural Resources, which oversees environmental questions and conducts
environmental impact assessments among others.
Section IV. Plant Biotechnology Marketing Issues
In studies done in 2003, 2006 and 2007 by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre
(CIMMYT), KARI and Kansas State University, Kenyan consumers were found to accept agricultural
biotechnology and genetic modification of foods at rates well below 50 percent (please see table below).
Processors and retailers showed a higher level of acceptance, especially with regard to genetically
Biotechnology Awareness in Kenya
Type Area or Industry Number Awareness
surveyed Biotechnology Percentage GM*
Urban Nairobi 612 46 38
Rural consumers Western Kenya 121 16 13
Eastern Kenya 400 63 31
Gatekeepers Milling 32 67 87
Supermarkets 40 83 79
Source: CIMMYT *GM ? Genetically Modified
In an attempt to improve the knowledge and acceptance of biotechnology and GMO crops and foods,
the GOK, with support from USAID and other donors, established a National Biotechnology Awareness
Creation Strategy (BioAware-Kenya).
How the vast majority of small-scale Kenyan farmers will react to the opportunity to buy and plant
biotechnology seeds remains an open question. From present-day experience, it is clear that Kenyan
farmers have not fully exploited all of the currently-available, production-enhancing technologies.
Some of the simplest and most cost-effective strategies, including soil testing to determine the correct
volumes of commercial fertilizer applications necessary to maximize crop yields, are not employed by
the vast majority of Kenyan small-scale farmers.
A new approach to agriculture policy that includes capacity and confidence building, policy stability in
form and application from year-to-year and production and trade enhancing characteristics will be
needed in Kenya before the full benefits of agriculture biotechnology can be realized. Poor policies
mean farmers minimize their investment in agriculture, because of their inability to predict/expect
profits from efforts.
Section V. Plant Biotechnology Capacity Building and Outreach
The following list represents U.S. Government funded biotechnology capacity building and outreach
1. Fellowship programs in agriculture biotechnology, intellectual property rights, technology
transfer, and policy development;
2. Farmer-to-farmer capacity building workshops;
3. Biotechnology speaker programs;
4. Biotechnology public awareness and outreach; and,
5. Support to African biotechnology stakeholder organizations.
Additional capacity building will strengthen Kenyan biotechnology and GMO researchers, GOK
regulatory officials and private sector resellers. Continued awareness building will likely help
consumers understand the benefits of genetic engineering and biotechnology crops and foods.
Section VI. Animal Biotechnology
Kenya does not currently use, nor participate in, scientific studies that employ animal genetic
modification (AGM) or cloning. Reportedly, the Ministry of Livestock has not proposed AGM
legislation or regulations and furthermore has not broached the topic with other Government