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2-Plants: Kenya stopped Bt maize field trials



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TITLE:  Govt stops research on maize
SOURCE: Sunday Nation, Kenya
       
http://www.nationmedia.com/dailynation/nmgcontententry.asp?category_id=1&newsid=56016
DATE:   28 Aug 2005

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Govt stops research on maize

The Government has terminated the Genetically Modified (GM) maize
experiments recently launched by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute
(Kari) and an American firm, Sygenta, and ordered the crop destroyed.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) will supervise the
destruction.

The the first ever field experiments on GM maize in the country, was started
in May at a Kari field station in Kiboko, Machakos. They were initially
hailed as a major break-through in resolving the challenges stem borer
pests present to farmers.

At the same time, local bio-technology researchers have been cautioned
against succumbing to pressure from international organisations at the
expense of standards and safety.

The newly appointed Agriculture secretary, Dr Wilson Songa, said there was a
tendency by local scientists to yield to pressure and sidestep existing
regulations in spite of the absence of any legal framework to mitigate
possible negative consequences.

"The fact that we don't have an enabling legal framework to fall back on
should anything nasty happen, should be reason enough for us to be extra
vigilant in biosafety. Unfortunately, there is an emerging tendency by our
scientists yielding to pressure from international collaborators pushing to
secure approvals for their research projects faster, sidestepping
procedures" Dr Songa said.

Dr Songa, who is the chairman of the National Biosafety Committee of the
National Council of Science and Technology, was commenting on last month's
termination of the stem-borer resistant maize experiments.

He cited failure by the transformed maize (Bt maize) researchers to conduct
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the biosafety glass house where
the maize seeds were grown. The planting of the seeds in the glass house at
the National Agricultural Laboratories in Kabete was launched by President
Kibaki in May last year.

"We don't have a baseline data on the impact of the maize on non-target
plants and insects. This was a major omission as supervisors in the field
have nothing to rely on. They shouldn't have gone to the field without some
baseline study on the environment. Our scientists should be lobbying for the
pending Biosafety Bill to be fast tracked into law. Instead, they are
rushing projects in the field that can have serious consequences in case
something went wrong, while we have no framework for redress," Dr Songa
said.

The Kiboko experiments were terminated after a technician sprayed the trial
maize crop with a restricted chemical, Furadan, and which also acts on stem
borers which meant it could no longer be possible to tell if it was the Bt
maize or the chemical that would influence results being examined.

The Kari director, Dr Romano Kiome, could not be reached for comment by
Friday but was expected back in the office next week.



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