Crop Biotech Update

Kenya Biosafety Regulators Commend Malawi's Bt Cotton National Performance Trials

May 31, 2017

A high-level delegation from Kenya visited Malawi's Bt cotton National Performance Trial (NPTs) fields on May 11, 2017. The team consisted of board chairs from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), as well as the Managing Director of RIVATEX, a textile company in Kenya. Farmers, media, and other key players were also represented.

The tour's objective was to share Malawi's regulatory experience in the conduct of NPTs and was hosted by the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS). Mr. Thomas Chilanga, Deputy Director of DARS encouraged the Kenyan delegates to work together to surmount the challenges facing conduct of NPTs in Kenya. "Necessity is the mother of inventions. Malawi's Bt cotton journey has not been smooth, actually, it was a crisis that gave us the impetus to go into Bt cotton research. Field days for farmers and use of mass media including local radio stations to share correct information was very crucial for Malawi," he said.

The delegates had an opportunity to see first-hand the efficacy of Bt cotton, learn about Malawi's NPT experimental design and interrogate an array of issues, including cross-pollination, performance of different cotton hybrid varieties and the effect of spraying against cotton bollworm for both biotech and conventional cotton.

While admitting that it was his first interacting with Bt cotton researchers both locally and regionally, NEMA chair, Mr. John Konchellah expressed support for Kenya's NPTs to enable the country to move to the next stage. "There is no doubt at least for Bt cotton. I will get on board even if its by-product will be used for animal feed, I have no problem. I feel for the scientists particularly the young generation who are trying to take their space in the scientific world yet we don't offer opportunities for them to apply acquired knowledge for societal benefit," said Mr. Konchellah.

The seeing-is-believing study tour was organized by ISAAA AfriCenter, in collaboration with Malawi's Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) through its specialized agency, the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Central Africa (ACTESA).

For more information, contact Dr. Margaret Karembu of ISAAA AfriCenter at mkarembu@isaaa.org.