Biotechnology Update Report

An Expert's View about Crops and Support Services in Kenya

Last updated: 26 Sep 2011

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.

THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT POLICY Required Report - public distribution Date: 8/2/2011 GAIN Report Number: Kenya Agricultural Biotechnology Annual Kenya Biotechnology Update Report Approved By: Souleymane Diaby Prepared By: Mary Onsongo Report Highlights: 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 Trials Status Began Bio Cassava Plus. Beta 2003 Confined KARI, and Danforth Center (USA) carotene enhancement gene Field Trial (CFT) Improved Maize for African 2010 CFT planned KARI and Pioneer Soils (IMAS). Developing in 1 to 2 transgenic nitrogen- use- years time efficient maize Disease resistant banana March Lab and International Livestock Research Institute 2011 green house (ILRI) research Genetic modification for yam March Lab and ILRI for nematode resistance 2011 green house research Insect resistance Pigeon Pea March Lab and Kenya University 2011 green house research Insect resistant sweet potato April Lab and Kenyatta University 2010 green house research Insect-resistant corn 2001 CFT KARI, CIMMYT, Syngenta Foundation, leaves Rockefeller Foundation and Monsanto 2003 seeds 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 (VIRCA)) Africa Biofortified sorghum 2005 & CFT Africa Harvest, Pioneer, KARI, and AATF 2009 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 progress. 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 national universities. 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 modified foods. Biotechnology Awareness in Kenya Type Area or Industry Number Awareness surveyed Biotechnology Percentage GM* (%) crops Urban Nairobi 612 46 38 consumers Rural consumers Western Kenya 121 16 13 Eastern Kenya 400 63 31 Gatekeepers Milling 32 67 87 companies 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 activity: 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 regulators.
Posted: 25 September 2011, last updated 26 September 2011

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