Crop Biotech Update
Special Edition: February 11, 2016
Kenya Approves Bt Maize for Limited Field Release

Kenya’s Biosafety Authority has granted a conditional approval for environmental release of insect resistant maize (Bt maize) for National Performance Trials. The Bt maize has been genetically modified to produce an insecticide – Bt protein – that kills certain insect pests. The gene added to the maize comes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which has long been known to possess an insecticidal effect and widely used in organic agriculture. The transformed crop will be able to withstand stem borers, known to reduce maize production by an average of 13 percent or 400,000 tonnes of maize, equivalent to the normal yearly amount of maize that Kenya imports. This damage is valued at more than USD 80 million. Other African countries that have already authorized the sale of GM crops including Burkina Faso, South Africa and Sudan. In 2014, South Africa grew 2.1 million hectares of biotech maize of which 28% was Bt maize.

The Kenyan approval was reached after comprehensive review of the application submitted by Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in June 2015. The review process included a public participation exercise, where stakeholders submitted written comments on the application.

Kenya has the requisite capacity for GM crop research and regulation. Members of parliament from seven committees, led by the chair of Education and Research committee Hon. Sabina Chege acknowledged this during biotech study tours at various research facilities in the country.

“We have the capacity, technology and science to produce adequate food for our people, through biotechnology“ said Hon. Dr. Wilbur Ottichilo, Kenyan parliamentarian.

Kenya developed a National Biotechnology Development Policy in 2006 and enacted the Biosafety Act in 2009. This was followed with the setting up of the National Biosafety Authority and publication of four regulations to address the governance of various aspects of modern biotechnology enterprise.

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Kenya's Agriculture Minister and AU-NEPAD CEO Underscores Use of ST&I in African Agriculture

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Mr. Willy Bett and Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), have underscored the use of science, technology and innovation as a vehicle to achieve food security for an increasing population in Africa.

Speaking during the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI)‘s 15th anniversary celebrations, Minister Bett said “scientists have an obligation to assist Kenya to create viable and sustainable agro-food sectors. He emphasized the need for a paradigm shift to fast track swift delivery of new products into solving future challenges of producing more food with fewer resources in a sustainable manner. On his part, Dr. Mayaki stressed the importance of science technology and innovation in leveraging Africa’s competitive advantage underlining the need to consider agricultural issues more from a multidisciplinary than single-unit approach.

While commending the BecA Hub for the valuable contributions in tackling intractable food production challenges, Kenyan Parliamentarian Hon. Robert Pukose also vice-chair of Health Committee challenged scientists to increase interaction with policy makers and lobby for financial support locally. Speaking at the event, Dr. Margaret Karembu of ISAAA AfriCenter shared some tips on connecting science with policy makers. Key among these include understanding the gap in messaging between scientific and policy processes, identifying appropriate platforms to engage with policy makers and increasing media outreach.

The event held on 3rd February 2016 brought together global, regional and local actors in agriculture for development and biosciences, with the theme:  “Mobilizing biosciences in and for Africa’s agricultural development.”

For more information on the Biosciences eastern and central Africa- (BecA-ILRI) Hub, contact the director Dr. Appolinaire Djikeng, at