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Crop Biotech Update

Kenya's National Biosafety Boards Assessed Its Biotech Capacity through a Study Tour

February 24, 2016

Members of the Kenya National Biosafety Authority Board and Appeals Board conducted an in-country study tour on February 22 to assess the country's capacity to conduct biotech research and to learn firsthand the various activities and research progress in the centers.

At Kenyatta University, the Board members were welcomed by Graduate School Dean Prof. Paul Okemo, while Senior Lecturer and Secretary General of the Kenya University Biotechnology Consortium (KUBICO) Dr. Richard Odour, presented the on-going researches at the university and led the laboratory tour. Dr. Jessica Mbaka, Director of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) at Thika, welcomed participants and stressed the importance of science communication for public acceptance of biotechnology and biosafety. Dr. Charles Waturu, the Horticulture Research Institute's Director received the board members on behalf of KALRO's Director General and commended efforts by organizers to expose such key stakeholders to the country's biotechnology and biosafety infrastructure.

At the confined field trials site of the Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa (VIRCA) project, team leader Dr. Simon Gichuki gave participants an overview of the cassava project and invited them to examine the crops. The laboratory visit was highly appreciated by majority of the board members, who felt reassured that Kenya has the infrastructure needed to adequately conduct research on GMOs. "The structures, the layout of the working space including the transformation and growth chambers section, and the restricted access to the facility qualifies the lab to a level II biosafety lab" said Robert Kilonzo, NBA board member from the Ministry of Public Health.

For Mrs. Selinah Kibogy, a member of the Appeals board, this was the first time she had ever seen a genetically modified (GM) crop. According to her, the field trip gave a great visual on what they are tasked to make key policy decisions about. "I am glad I got to see GM crops and obtained first-hand information from the researchers" she said.

The tour was organized by ISAAA AfriCenter and the National Biosafety Authority, under the auspices of the Programs for Biosafety Systems and the VIRCA project.

For more information, contact Dr. Will Tonui, C.E.O of the Kenya National Biosafety Authority at ceo@biosafetykenya.go.ke.