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2-Plants: Drought resistant maize variety sought in Kenia



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TITLE:  Drought resistant maize variety sought
SOURCE: The East African Standard, Kenya, by Ken Ramani
DATE:   16 Apr 2005

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Drought resistant maize variety sought

NAIROBI - Kenyatta University has embarked on research aimed at developing
maize varieties tolerant to witch-weed.

The dreaded weed is seen as a serious constraint to maize production in the
country and sub-Saharan Africa.

This was disclosed yesterday during the launch of Level two Biosafety Plant
Genetic Transformation facility at the university.

Kenyatta University has become the second institution after the Kenya
Agricultural Research Institute to have a facility to research genetically
modified foods.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate has already certified the laboratory to
undertake this home-grown biotechnology research.

Education minister, Prof George Saitoti, said Kari and national universities
have started using molecular markers to speed up animal breeding efforts
through conventional approaches.

"We cannot afford to ignore the use of this and other emerging technologies
if we intend to be globally competitive.

"Africa had failed to benefit from the green revolution, let us make sure
that we reap the gains of biotechnology," said Saitoti.

President Kibaki last year opened the first bio-safety glasshouse in Kenya
at Kari.

The local university and the University of California are collaborating in
the biosafety project funded by the Rockfeller Foundation.

Saitoti said the facility would make a contribution in empowering African
scientists to embrace biotechnology to do research that addresses the
problems of the continent.

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof Everret Standa, said KU researchers had entered
into a working relation with other institutions such as Kari and Kemri.

He said donors, notably RF, AATF, USAid, USDA and the private sector, are
among those that KU researchers are closely working with in the field of
genetically modified foods.

Standa said KU welcomes the collaborative efforts and financial support
aimed at benefiting farmers and consumers of their produce.

It was further disclosed that during the 2005/6 academic year, KU would
admit students from Sudan, Ethiopia and Tanzania to be trained in
agricultural biotechnology with the aim of developing drought-resistant
maize varieties.

Education Permanent Secretary, Prof Karega Mutahi, who read Saitoti's
speech, said the Attorney General's office had approved a Draft Bill on GMO
foods.

"Anytime from now the Bill will be presented to the Cabinet for approval
before being taken to Parliament for debate and approval," Mutahi told The
Standard.




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