By Peter Mutai NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member
countries on Wednesday expressed their readiness for the development and
importation of genetically modified organism (GMO) products in the region.
Belay, COMESA Senior Biotechnology Policy Advisor, said the Africa’s largest
trading bloc has experts and laboratories for testing GMOs.
has trained scientists and some are currently working in other continents due to
lack of developed systems in biotechnology development,” Belay told Xinhua in
Nairobi on Wednesday.
He said the
19-member bloc has taken biotechnology seriously by putting down infrastructures
as per the recommendations of the Cartagena protocol.
are currently cooperating in creating an enabling environment for external,
cross-border and domestic investment, including the joint promotion of research
and adaptation of science and technology for development.
COMESA provides a technical opinion about the biosafety of GMOs seeking
commercial status in the COMESA region, which can be used by individual
countries to make decisions within their own biosafety regulatory frameworks,
and also a harmonized mechanism for decision-making involving commercial
planting, trade of GMOs and food aid with GM content in the COMESA region.
He noted that
COMESA has helped member states share and build capacity to conduct risk
assessment and management. It also established interactive regional
information-sharing mechanism on biosafety and biotechnology issues.
Karembu, Director of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech
Applications (ISAAA), said whereas several countries are making profits from
biotechnology, African countries are still lagging behind due to unpredictable
political and policy environment in supporting biotechnology research.
regulatory processes coupled with miscommunication of the technology are to
blame for Africa’s slow uptake of the technology,” she noted.
Sudan is the
only country in the region that is currently growing GMO. It has 100,000 acres
under such crops since 2012 when the technology was introduced. Currently 97
percent of farmers are growing the GMO variety.
Swaziland, Uganda and Malawi are at confined field trial stages for Bt. cotton,
Bt. maize, virus-resistant cassava and sweet potatoes, bacterial-wilt-resistant
banana and drought-tolerant water-efficient maize.
Kenya to adopt development of synthetic biology
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya is
in the process of adopting synthetic biology technologies research and its
commercialization, a senior government official has disclosed.
Scientist at the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI)
Dr. Benson Kinyagia said on Wednesday that Kenya has seen the potential in
investing in the area in helping harness its potential in the industrial
“We intend to
develop a policy on synthetic biology to enable the country tackle disease, food
and energy production, clean water and waste management challenges,” Kinyagia
said during a workshop on synthetic biology at a Nairobi hotel.
The field of
synthetic biology aims to define a framework for accelerating the engineering of
biological systems and cells for useful applications as well as furthering
fundamental understanding of living systems.
It adopts an
engineering approach for the systematic design and construction of new
biological systems and cells at the genetic level and is inherently
interdisciplinary bringing together biologists, engineers, computer scientists,
social scientists, designers and artists.
Kenya will be
the third country in Africa after South Africa and Egypt once the technology
takes shape. Europe and Asia have already adopted the technology.
observed that synthetic biology technology is the route to realizing global
development after the agricultural revolution, industrial revolution and
depletion of the natural ecosystem and biodiversity, there is need to develop
synthetic biology research,” he added.
General of NACOSTI Dr. Moses Rugut said that Kenya and other east African
countries are due to start exploring synthetic biology technology through
academic scientists and student exchange in the United Kingdom.
“We intend to
establish potential research collaboration focused on the identified application
areas,” he added.
He said that
Kenya has identified 14 research programs where local researchers will engage
with the British researchers.
Kemp, head of research at the Department for International Development (DFID)
hailed east African governments for realizing the importance of science and
She said that
through the Newton-Utafiti Fund, the bilateral science relationship with the
region will provide a platform to develop new knowledge partnerships in science,
technology and innovation.