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2-Plants: Kenya to repeat field trial for Bt maize



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

TITLE:  KENYA TO REPEAT FIELD TRIAL FOR BT MAIZE
SOURCE: ISAAA Knowledge Centre, USA
        http://www.isaaa.org/kc/Bin/cbtupdate/index.htm
DATE:   9 Sep 2005

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KENYA TO REPEAT FIELD TRIAL FOR BT MAIZE

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the International
Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) are set to repeat the
confined field trial for Bt maize contrary to media reports that the
government has terminated it.

The trial to test the effectiveness of Bt maize that was genetically
modified to resist Kenyan stem borers started in May 2005 at an open
quarantine site at Kiboko, near Nairobi. It is to be repeated following
an inadvertent application of Furadan, a systemic insecticide, by the
technician in-charge to control white grubs.

CIMMYT and KARI project managers said the erroneous use of the
insecticide effectively invalidating the trial results, prompting them to
notify the National Biosafety Committee (NBC) on 18 July 2005 who
recommended that the current crop be immediately harvested and destroyed
under the supervision of the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service
(KEPHIS), which also supervised its planting.

The Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) project, a joint undertaking
of KARI and CIMMYT, will apply for the NBC's permission to repeat the
trial at the same site once the Furadan has disintegrated--eight weeks
from the date it was applied.

For more information, contact Daniel Otunge of the Kenya Biotechnology
Information Center at dotunge@absfafrica.org.


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

TITLE:  Rethink the ban on GM maize
SOURCE: The Nation, Kenya, letter by Zachary Opondo Otieno
        http://www.nationmedia.com/dailynation/nmgcontententry.asp?
premiumid=0&category_id=23&newsid=56519
DATE:   5 Sep 2005

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Rethink the ban on GM maize

The ban and the ensuing destruction of Kenya's first genetic engineering
maize by the Government at KARI is quite absurd and a big blow to
agricultural research and agriculture.

For thousands of years humans have manipulated the genetic
characteristics of plants by selective breeding. This approach has been
extremely successful and will continue to play a major role in
agriculture. However classplant breeding programmes rely on being able to
carry out genetic crosses between individual plants. Such plants must be
sexually compatible, that is, they must be closely related. It has,
therefore, not been possible to combine genetic traits from widely
differing species.

The advent of genetic engineering has removed this constraint and has
given the agricultural biotechnologists a very powerful way of
incorporating defined genetic changes into plants. Such changes are often
aimed at improving the productivity and efficiency of crop plants both of
which are important to help feed the increasing human population.

Introducing specific cloned DNA into plant cells is now routine practice
worldwide except in Africa that is rather slow in initiating this
technology. Therefore our Biotechnologists at KARI were not just aping
blindly the American through their firm Sygenta as being purported by the
newly appointed Agriculture Secretary, Dr. Wilson Songa. Our Scientists
were also trying to improve the livelihood of mankind through this
promising branch of science.

Biotechnology holds the key to development in sectors such as
agriculture, medicine and animal husbandry. It is, therefore, wrong to
shoot down such an important scientific breakthrough without seeking to
understand the merits and demerits of such a project.

The method used in this technology presumably assures a great deal of
safety to human and the environment at large. The method targets just a
pure set of genes whose effects are known e.g. resistance, to a certain
disease. There is generally no overlap in gene expressions and the target
gene will definitely express itself in a known predetermined and
predictable way. This avoids any likelihood of wrong unexpected gene
expressions that could result in unwanted effects of the inserted gene.

The only major challenges for the scientific community is to inform and
educate the public by frank and open discussion on the relevant issues.

ZACHARY OPONDO OTIENO
Kenya Polytechnic, Nairobi




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