Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has applied to the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) for environmental release and placing on the market of genetically modified (GM) cassava with enhanced resistance to brown streak disease (CBSD).

Today, the NBA published a public notice requesting the public to participate through sending their comments on this Application. The public participation process commences today and ends on 14th June, 2020. “The Authority, thereafter, will make a final decision on the Application based on safety assessment, socio-economic considerations, and relevant comments received from the public,” reads the notice.

The Application describes a cassava line 4046 that was developed using modern biotechnology to express high levels of resistance to CBSD, a disease spread by whiteflies and by infected cuttings. This development follows several years of laboratory, greenhouse, and confined field trials. Farmers and consumers will benefit from CBSD-resistant cassava as it promises increased cassava root quality and marketable yield. The improved cassava was developed under the Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa Plus (VIRCA Plus), a collaborative project between KALRO, the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) Uganda, and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

Speaking after the submission of the Application dossier, KALRO Director General Dr. Eliud  Kireger said should the Application be considered and approved,  the disease-resistant cassava line 4046 will significantly contribute to attainment of a food secure Kenya and creation of thousands of jobs along the value chain due to the crop’s potential industrial use.

Kenya’s VIRCA Plus Principal Investigator Prof. Douglas Miano is delighted to be leading a team of scientists to address the problem of CBSD. “We were looking for a solution and we have got it! I feel very proud for being part of this achievement,” he enthused.

ISAAA AfriCenter, who has been handling the communication and policy engagement component of the project in Kenya, will lead sensitization and outreach activities to secure public support for the Application. To build an improved understanding of the Application, the Center will spearhead engagements with farmers, policy makers, cassava value chain actors and many other stakeholders. “AfriCenter is determined to build enough capacity for all stakeholders to embrace the improved cassava by supporting the Application so that farmers can access high quality cassava,” said Dr. Margaret Karembu, AfriCenter Director and head of VIRCA Plus communications team.

All interested parties and persons are encouraged to submit written comments on the Application to reach the NBA not later than 14th June, 2020. Public participation forms can be downloaded from the NBA website.