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Kenya mulls GMO cassava farming

By Frankline Sunday | May 20th 2020

Stakeholders tour a trial field of Genetically Modified cassavas at KALRO Mtwapa. [File, Standard]

Kenya is planning to approve the cultivation of genetically modified (GMO) cassava in a bid to improve food security.

The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) is working to introduce the GMO variety that is reported to be more disease resistant than traditional strains.

“The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) announces to the public the receipt of an application for consideration for a possible environmental release (open cultivation) and placing on the market of genetically modified cassava that is resistant to Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), a common viral disease present in Kenya,” said the NBA in a notice.

According to Kalro, the GMO cassava would result in more marketable yields for farmers.

“Farmers and consumers will benefit from CBSD-resistant cassava as a result of increased cassava root quality and marketable yield,” said the notice.

Hardy crop

Last year, Kenya produced 973,000 tonnes of cassava, all of which were sold and consumed in the country.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation, cassava is a crucial food crop for African countries since it is hardy and can be cultivated without mechanisation or costly inputs such as fertiliser.

Nigeria currently leads the continent in cassava production, with Malawi, Tanzania, Ghana and Uganda rounding out the list of top five producers.

NBA said the government is considering the nutritional composition and safety of new proteins in the assessment before granting approval for the crop.

If approved, the GMO cassava will be included in the list of genetically modified crops currently awaiting legalisation.

In 2016, global agricultural producer Monsanto applied to the Kenyan government seeking to conduct limited national trials on genetically modified cotton. 

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