The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) has received an application to allow for GMO crops, setting the stage for large-scale field trials.
The Kenya Agricultural Research Organisation (Kalro) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) have submitted a joint report to Nema which contains expert views on impacts of GM crops on the environment amid fears they could cross contaminate other plants and have long-term health effects for humans.
Kenya imposed a ban on GM crops in November 2012, citing danger to public health, a decision that locked out exporters including South Africa, the biggest maize producer on the continent.
“We have submitted our findings on environmental impact to Nema and we are at the moment waiting for response,” said Kalro director, General Eliud Kireger, adding that their findings have not revealed major breaches on the environment.
Kalro and AATF had applied for the environmental release, cultivation, and placing of GMO crops in the market last year. They were given conditional approval by the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) pending a Nema report.
Safe for use
The application was subjected to a science-based review by NBA, government agencies and independent experts to ascertain that the proposed product was safe for human and animal health.
Dr Kireger said they were targeting to start the trials next April with the onset of the long rains in what could ultimately lead to commercial GM farming.
The NBA received the two applications, including one for GM corn from Kalro and AATF, and one for GM cotton from Monsanto Kenya Ltd. It required the applicants, prior to the seed trials, to conduct an environmental impact assessment and submit the report to Nema before their request is considered.
GMO advocates say the health and environmental fears are not scientifically proven, adding that poor farmers are likely to benefit most from reduced use of pesticides, lower production costs, higher yields and high prices for crops.
The United States, Brazil and India are the world’s largest growers of GM crops while in Africa, South Africa is the only country producing GM maize on a commercial scale. Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Swaziland, Nigeria and Ghana have been carrying out trials on different GM crops.