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Kenya approves Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) bill
9 December 2008
Dr Wynand J van der Walt, FoodNCropBio


Kenya has gone through a rigorous process over several years of public and parliamentary debates, and amendments, before finally approving the Biosafety Bill that will regulate research, development, adoption, and trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The Bill was approved by an overwhelming majority in parliament on 9 December 2008 and is expected to be shortly signed into law by the president.

The Bill flows from the National Biotechnology Development Policy of 2006 that has aimed to create an enabling regulatory environment for research, development and production of products derived through modern biotechnology that covers plant and animal production, vaccines, diagnostics, and human health applications. The guidelines drafted by the National Council for Science and Technology in 1998, under the Science and Technology Act of 1980 had served as interim framework under which genetic modification research was conducted on GM cassava, maize, cotton, and sweet potatoes in confined facilities, as well as diagnostic kits for animal disease detection and vaccine development. In fact, Kenya has been conducting contained trials at research stations on Bt insect resistant cotton and Bt maize for some four years, and, recently, greenhouse trials with GM streak virus resistant maize. An application has been submitted for clinical animal trials with a novel, home-grown GM vaccine against Rift Valley Fever, a devastating livestock disease in East Africa.

The law not only will serve to provide a functional biosafety framework but is also a requirement under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to manage transboundary movement of Living Modified Organisms including seeds and grain.

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