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Field test approval puts Kenya closer to GMO bananas

The National Biosafety Authority has approved field tests for genetically modified bananas, moving the country closer to accepting growing and consumption of GMO foods.

The authority, in a Gazette Notice dated September 8 says the approval for controlled field tests was granted on November 7 last year, paving the way for the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation to test transgenic bananas.

The bananas have been modified for purposes of making them resistant to the Xanthomonas Wilt disease – also known as Bacterial Wilt. “That’s an ongoing project at the KALRO Centre in Alupe, Busia,” said Willy Tonui, the NBA chief executive.

“Bananas are vulnerable to a lot of diseases, especially in Western Kenya and parts of Uganda and these trials have been going on for about six months now, and doing very well,” he said.

Growing and consumption of GMO food remains a controversial subject globally due to concerns over the possible negative health impact on human beings. Some of the possible health impacts have been documented in the infamous Seralini Paper, which claimed that genetically modified food causes cancer.

Dr Tonui, however, says the field and laboratory trials are expected to address the health and environmental concerns before final approval of the technology.

“I know there have been a lot of concern over the possible health effects of GMOs out there. But I want to assure the public that the process is very rigorous. It takes about 10 years to develop a GMO seed and we as an authority do a lot of checks to ensure public safety, so there is no need to doubt a process that has been fully vetted and thoroughly monitored,” Dr Tonui said in an interview.

Publication date: 9/18/2017


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