The Kenya National Biosafety Authority (NBA) has approved the environmental release of genetically modified (GM) cassava in the country.
The event 4046, resistant to cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) was developed by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).
The approval paves way for conducting national performance trials of these varieties before registration and release to farmers.
“Full approval will be considered by the Board after the NPTs have been finalized. This approval is valid for a period of five (5) years from the date of authorization,” Prof Doringtom Ogoyi, CEO of Kenya National Biosafety Authority said in an emailed statement seen by Khusoko.
Cassava event 4046 was developed using modern biotechnology and was evaluated over a period of five years in confined field trials in three different locations in Kenya – Mtwapa (Kilifi), Kandara (Murang’a), and Alupe (Busia).
In 2020, an umbrella of organizations advocating for food safety, environmental conservation, farmers and consumer rights had demanded a 10-year moratorium on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) cassava varieties put in place.
They claimed that the public participation process that was conducted virtually for the environmental release of GM cassava in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic was flawed.
However, Prof. Dorrington says NBA’s decision was arrived at following a thorough review, taking into account food, feed, and environmental safety assessment as well as consideration of socio-economic issues.
The review process also factored public comments for 30 days, in line with the Kenyan constitution that calls for public participation.
“This is a welcome decision and a significant step to getting disease-resistant cassava into the hands of Kenyan farmers to address food security challenges,” he notes.