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2-Plants: Kenyean farmers may start planting GM maize in three years



*-------------------------------------------------------------------------*
   "It was not lost on keen observers that in all the literature material
    circulated by the key players, KARI and CIMMYT, scientists avoid
    mentioning bio-engineering or genetically modified maize. All
    through, Dr Kiome stuck to 'transformed maize ', while the CIMMYT
    researchers chose 'biotechnology-derived maize and the insect-
    resistant transgenic maize'."
*-------------------------------------------------------------------------*

*-------------------------------------------------------------------------*
   "He [Dr Stephen Mugo, KARI] said: "The quarantine site at Kiboko was
    built to specifications and included security measures to ensure
    genetic material does not escape or spread outside the site." [...]
    Curiously though, the Bt Maize researchers did not conduct
    Environmental Impact Assessments as required by the law. Dr Mugo
    says an environmental study is not necessary because KARI is a
    government agency. He says the Kiboko Kari Station is recognised
    to test transgenic material. [...] "As for the Environmental Impact
    Assessments, we have not been asked to submit one so we have not done
    it."
*-------------------------------------------------------------------------*

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Farmers May Start Planting GM Maize in Three Years
SOURCE: The Nation, Kenya, by Gakuu Mathenge
        http://allafrica.com/stories/200507181688.html
DATE:   19 Jul 2005

------------------- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/ -------------------


Farmers May Start Planting GM Maize in Three Years

A new maize seed resistant to the stem-borer will be available to farmers
in 2008, scientists say.

Genetically modified at Sh456 million in the last six years, the Bt Maize
is hailed by researchers as a milestone in the national struggle for food
self-sufficiency.

The variety's first seed samples were planted on Kenyan soil on May 25 at
the Kiboko open field station of the Kenya Agricultural Research
Institute (Kari) - the first experimental phase before releasing the
seeds to the farmers.

A farmer records details of a new farming method developed by KARI on a
demonstration plot. Kari may soon introduce genetically modified maize
crops in Kenya.

Scientists extolled it as "ground-breaking" - the first insect-resistant
maize to be planted in black Africa outside South Africa.

The maize has been in development in laboratories since 1999 by a team of
insect scientists at the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) project.

The scientists say the prospects are good for both commercial and peasant
farmers. The days of the stem borer that feeds on both stem and seed may
be numbered.

The worm destroys 400,000 tonnes of maize in Kenya each year. This not
only reduces food harvests, it means wasted investments and reduces food
security and incomes to farmers.

"Indeed, this is close to the amount Kenya imports each year," says
Kari's Romano Kiome. "The loss directly affects the the livelihoods of
thousands of families depending on maize as the staple food and for an
income."

The Bt Maize was developed by Kari and the International Maize and Wheat
Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) with support from Rockefeller Foundation and
the Syngenta Foundation for the Sustainable Agriculture.

One of the lead researchers, Dr Stephen Mugo, said Bt Maize was developed
by injecting a parent maize seed line with several Bt genes to produce
the stem borer-resistant variety.

"The converted seeds have been studied, multiplied and tested in
laboratories and greenhouse conditions," says Dr Mugo. "This is the first
time they are being planted and studied in open-air condition.

"The next stage will be to develop and package the product for trials.
This is likely to happen around 2008. Only then can a large-scale release
happen."

It has cost $6 million so far, said Dr Mugo, a project manager for IRMA
and CIMMYT, and that the field trials will serve two objectives.

"First the trials will be used to determine performance (the
effectiveness) of the stock borer-resistant maize under field conditions.

"Secondly, the trial crop will be inter-cropped with Kenyan maize
varieties as part of a cross-breeding process expected to produce Bt
Maize hybrids adapted to Kenya's growing conditions."

The trial will be conducted at Kiboko, where the Bt seeds were planted.

The planting was the first of the Confined Field Trials (CFT), supervised
by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), Kari, the
National Biosafety Committee and the CIMMYT, with Dr Simon Gichuki as the
principal investigator.

He said: "The quarantine site at Kiboko was built to specifications and
included security measures to ensure genetic material does not escape or
spread outside the site."

"This means that no pollen, seed or other plant material can escape the
trial area or cross inadvertently with maize not included in the
experiments. This way, no material from the quarantine site will enter
the maize reproduction, and feed pathways without the Kenyan regulatory
system's authority."

He added his team had already conducted mock trials at the site and were
now ready for the real thing.

Dr Kiome said Bt Maize had been transformed (genetically engineered or
modified) to resist stem borers because it carries the soil-dwelling
bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis.

Dr Kiome said: "Maize stem borers cause yield losses of up to 13.5 per
cent in Kenya, close to the total maize Kenya imports every year.

"So Kari and CIMMYT have striven to develop high yielding, high quality
maize varieties resistant to stem borers, using both conventional
breeding and biotechnology techniques."

The Bt Maize will be most useful to lowland to middle altitude farmers -
from Coast through Machakos and Embu among other areas where the Spotted
Stem Borer thrives. High altitude areas like Kitale and the mountain high
lands will have to wait for results of research that is still under way,
according to Dr Mugo.

He added that the scientists have been keen to adhere to all bio-safety
procedures developed by the National Biosafety Committee (NBC) which is
coordinated by the National Council for Science and Technology and the
processes have been closely monitored by KEPHIS.

"The highest standards have been observed throughout the research to
ensure that only material that is totally safe for human food and animal
feed enter the food chain. In additional we ensured that such plants have
no adverse effect on the environment and are even beneficial," Kiome
added in his speech during the inaugural planting of the Bt trial seeds.

Dr Kiome sought to re-assure Kenyans about the safety of both the product
and the procedures and processes followed to develop it; for Bio-
engineering is a controversial subject.

It was not lost on keen observers that in all the literature material
circulated by the key players, KARI and CIMMYT, scientists avoid
mentioning bio-engineering or genetically modified maize.

All through, Dr Kiome stuck to "transformed maize ", while the CIMMYT
researchers chose "biotechnology-derived maize and the insect-resistant
transgenic maize".

Genetically Modified (GM) foods or bio-engineered plant and animal
products foods evoke strong reactions from many quarters around the
world, ranging from the religious who oppose interference with the
"divine creation or the natural order of things", to environmentalists.

Environmental lobbies fear researchers either deliberately or carelessly
fail to disclose full implications of the bio-engineered products on the
environment and people's health.

For instance, one the most controversial GM debates involved one of the
global leaders in Biotech engineering, US-based Monsato and the Federal
Food and Drugs Administration over Monsato-developed GM soya products
that have been in supermarkets since 1994.

Independent tests disclosed the failure by manufacturers to disclose side
effects of the GM soya-products. Researchers and governments, under
pressure to feed ever soaring population and increase farm prices to keep
farmers tilling the land, obviously see things differently.

The Kenya government's support is evident in the fact that the state
availed the KARI laboratories, green houses and researchers to host the
BT maize development.

Curiously though, the Bt Maize researchers did not conduct Environmental
Impact Assessments as required by the law.

Dr Mugo says an environmental study is not necessary because KARI is a
government agency. He says the Kiboko Kari Station is recognised to test
transgenic material.

"Yes we are aware the Biosafety Bill is under preparation but we are
still in the research stages. We have been operating on ministerial rules
and regulations which are sufficient for our work at this stage as we
await the enactment of the Bill," he said.

"As for the Environmental Impact Assessments, we have not been asked to
submit one so we have not done it.

"But again, the Kiboko station is an approved research station. It is
approved by the National Standing Technical Committee for imports and
export led by KEPHIS," Dr Mugo said.


                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Public Left Out of Debate to Introduce Re-Engineered Crop
SOURCE: The Nation, Kenya, by Gakuu Mathenge
        http://allafrica.com/stories/200507181679.html
DATE:   19 Jul 2005

------------------- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/ -------------------


Public Left Out of Debate to Introduce Re-Engineered Crop

The introduction of a genetically maize crop in Kenya is bound to raise
complaints from environmentalists.

Environment lawyer Mr Mark Odhyambo Oloo says researchers have rushed to
develop a new maize variety in complete disregard of the law.

"The whole affair has been rush and is dangerous, he said.

"It has not been been subjected to adequate public debate by Kenyans who
are expected to be the final consumers of the end product. They
(researchers) have also grossly ignored the law by their failure to
conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment.

"No one is saying science has no place in improving food production but
even science should be guided by the law."

The second schedule of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act
(EMCA1999) requires that major developments in biotechnology like
genetically modified organisms be subjected to EIA's before introduction
into the environment.

"The National Environment Authority (NEMA), the official agency charged
with the enforcement of EMCA, requires that precautionary measures be
taken, especially in new projects about which there is no absolute
scientific truth on likely environmental impacts. The GM maize was a
perfect case for extreme application of the precautionary principal," Mr
Oloo added.

Mr Oloo, who insisted that he was expressing his personal views, said it
was unclear as to why Kari and the international agencies were rushing
their project while there was a Biotechnology Bill Draft at the Attorney
General's Chambers waiting for publication.

The Biotechnology Bill is supposed to spell out the guidelines and
conditions under which biotechnological research is conducted in Kenya
and under what conditions engineered products can be introduced to the public.




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