Researchers accuse State of derailing GMO studies

Reasons being advanced by the Agriculture Cabinet secretary for opposing research on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are misguided, scientists have said.

Through the Kenya University Biotechnology Consortium (Kubico), the researchers accuse Mr Willy Bett of failure to understand the mandate of some of the agencies under his ministry.

“GMO trials will be safely conducted. The minister is not aware of his own regulations,” Kubico secretar- general Joel Ochieng said in a press statement. 

The CS said the government was reluctant to approve further research on the GM maize that is drought-resistant and resistant to stalk borer that affects maize yields because “some things” are not clear.

Mr Bett has expressed fear that the National Performance Trials (NPTs) the scientists are advocating for would adversely affect traditionally grown crops through cross-pollination.

But, the scientists have differed with the government’s position on grounds that the field trials will be conducted by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service under strict guidelines.

“The trials are conducted in specific and designated trial farms, not anywhere,” Dr Ochieng said. 

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The scientists said the Biosafety Act and environmental release regulations provide for procedures for reviewing applications for field trials. 

The application to conduct the field trials on GM maize in Kenya was approved by the National Biosafety Authority, which is the lead agency for regulating GMOs.

The authority’s chief executive Willy Tonui said the approvals are granted following a rigorous review by a team of experts from relevant government ministries and consumer representatives.

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