Kenyan Authority Recommends Lifting of Ban on GM Corn Imports

Updated on
  • Monsanto awaiting response on application to release Bt Cotton
  • Authority to make decision on applications by end-February

Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority recommended the government lift a ban on imports of genetically modified organisms as the body prepares to decide on applications by companies including Monsanto Co. for environmental release of their products in the East African nation.

Kenya imposed a ban on GM crops in November 2012, citing concerns that the organisms are a danger to public health. The decision locked out exporters including South Africa, the biggest corn producer on the continent.

“We recommend lifting the ban,” National Biosafety Authority Chief Executive Officer Willy Tonui said in an interview Jan. 5 in the capital, Nairobi. “We now have border control, surveillance and a strong regulatory system.”

Kenya is Africa’s largest per-capita corn consumer and the second-biggest seeds market, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Annual corn consumption is estimated at 103 kilograms (227 pounds) per person, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. In 2011, Kenya became the first African nation to report an outbreak of the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease, which can wipe out farmers’ entire crops, the FAO says on its website. Syngenta AG, the Swiss insecticide and seed maker, announced plans in 2014 to build an Africa research center in Kenya this year.

Monsanto Application

The NBA received two applications to release genetically modified organisms in Kenya, including one for Bt corn from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization and the Africa Agricultural Technology Foundation, and one for Bt cotton from Monsanto Kenya Ltd., Tonui said.

The authority expects to make a decision on the GM corn-seed application by Jan. 31, Tonui said. The decision on an application by St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto’s Kenyan unit to release cotton seed in Kenya will be made by Feb. 28, he said, without adding further details.

Betty Kiplagat, a spokeswoman for Monsanto Kenya, confirmed an application has been made to release Bt Cotton in Kenya and the company is awaiting the NBA’s response.

Cotton production in Kenya peaked at 25,080 metric tons in 1985, before dropping to 7,750 tons by 2013 after liberalization of the industry led to increased demand for cheaper imports, according to Food and Agriculture Organization data. Burkina Faso, Africa’s largest cotton grower, produced 430,000 tons in 2013, FAO data shows.