The National Environment Management Authority has approved the National Performance Trials on GMO cassava.
The essence of the National Performance Trials is to test the performance of new plant varieties in comparison to varieties that are currently in the market.
Speaking during the 11th annual biosafety conference, Josphat Muchiri from the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) said NEMA has approved NPTs which will be carried out by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) for two planting seasons.
The license by NEMA was issued on February 14, 2023 and this will pave the way for commercialization of GMO cassava in the next five to six years.
The Environmental Impact Assessment license is issued as per NEMA’s Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act.
“This is to certify that Environmental Impact Assessment study report has been received from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (Biotechnology Centre) submitted to the National Environment Management Authority in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment and Audit Regulations, 2023 regarding the proposed inclusion of Genetically Modified Cassava Resistant to CBSD,” the EIA license read.
The approval indicated that the objective of the approval is to carry on inclusion of GM event 4046 cassava resistant to Cassava Brown Steak Diseases (CBSD) into National Performance Trials (NPTs) for research purposes only.
This will be done through small scale experimental varieties testing in different agroecological zones within seven KEPHIS designated sites in KALRO centers. The sites include Kiboko, Mtwapa, Msabaha, Matuga, Alupe, Kakamega and Oyani in Makueni, Kilifi, Kwale, Busia, Kakamega and Migori Counties.
“A license is hereby issued for the implementation of the project,” the license read.
According to Dr Martin Mwirigi acting director Biotechnology Research Institute, once KEPHIS has concluded the trails, they will then give a report to NBA.
“It will then be forwarded to the National Variety Release Committee in the Ministry of Agriculture who will determine if the variety can be released to farmers,” Mwirigi said.
Dr Paul Chege of ISAAA Africenter said the NPTs will be instrumental in visualizing the performance of the improved crop varieties in various parts of the country.
“It will also allow farmers and interested stakeholders to see a GM food crop, one of the very effective ways of awareness creating and alleviating stigma around GMOs,” he said.
Paul Kuria a senior scientist from KALRO involved in the Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa(VIRCA) project said the cassava was developed using modern biotechnology in confined field trials in Mtwapa (Kilifi), Kandara (Murang’a) and Alupe (Busia).
He said the cassava plants cultivars are resistant to the devastating Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) and Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD).
“With the current drought in the country, cassava can be used as a food security crop. It can also be used in flour blending to add more nutrition and help in reducing pressure on white maize,” said Kuria.