The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) Board has approved the application for environmental release of genetically modified (GM) cassava.
In a statement, NBA said the approval was based on food/feed safety and environmental safety assessment which showed that the cassava varieties containing Event 4046 are unlikely to pose any risk to human and animal health or to the environment when consumed as food or feed or when cultivated in the open environment.
“The variety was thus shown to be as safe as the conventional varieties that have been cultivated by farmers over the years. This approval implies that Kenya is the first country globally to consider a request for environmental release involving cassava crop,” the statement read in part.
“After several years of laboratory, greenhouse, and confined field trials conducted locally in Mtwapa, Alupe, Kandara and Nairobi by Kenyan scientists, the application for environmental release and placing on the market of genetically modified (GM) cassava was submitted to the NBA by Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) on 9th March 2020.”
The GM Cassava has been developed using RNA interference (RNAi) technology. RNAi is a natural biological mechanism that regulates the expression of genes.
The improved cassava is resistant to Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) because of the modern biotechnology used to express the high levels of resistance. CBSD is a common viral disease present in Kenya and is spread by whiteflies and by infected cuttings.
“Cassava farmers will be protected from devastating losses caused by CBSD. Together with consumers, farmers will benefit from increased cassava root quality and marketable yield. This technology has been used globally in other already commercialized crops like papaya, squash, and plums consumed by humans in China and the USA without any known human or animal health implications,” added the statement.
For socio-economic impact assessment, analysis and expert opinions indicate that GM cassava is not expected to change the farming systems currently in Kenya.
This approval is for the purpose of conducting National Performance Trials (NPTs), which is the penultimate stage for full environmental release and placement into the market. Full approval will be considered by the Board after the NPTs have been finalized.
This approval is valid for a period of five (5) years from the date of authorization.