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September 22, 2008

Kenya edges closer to official adoption of GM technology

The government of Kenya has taken the first step towards adopting biotechnology in agricultural production by preparing guidelines on how to handle genetically modified applications.

According to the head of the National Council for Science and Technology, Prof Shaukat Abdulrazak, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology will on September 25 launch a strategy paper explaining the benefits of the technology to the public.

Agriculture minister William Ruto on September 22 said, “We have done enough lobbying to ensure that this time the Bill is passed,” in a speech read on his behalf by an assistant ministerat an All-Africa Congress on Biotechnology in Nairobi.

“My desire is for all African countries to adopt an enabling policy for the development and application of biotechnology. This will fast-track the integration of Africa in the global bioeconomy,” said the minister.

This is the third time in as many months that Mr Ruto has called for the adoption of biotechnology and yesterday he got backing from the African Union.

Ms Rhoda Tumusiime of the AU said the Assembly of the African Heads of State and Government had called for adoption of a common position on genetic engineering.

“This indicates the commitment by African leaders that GM technology may as well be one of the tools that will resolve the continent’s agricultural constraints,” Ms Tumusiime told the delegates.

A month ago, a report by a high-level African panel on modern biotechnology, led by Kenya’s Prof Calestus Juma, called for the speedy adoption of GM technology and soon after, Comesa produced a similar report.

If and when the technology is adopted, Kenyans will be surprised at how much GM research has been going on in the country, especially on aloe vera, maize, sweet potatoes, rice, sorghum, forestry and even on livestock, most of which will be discussed at the five-day event.

Daily Nation

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