The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) has authorised national field cultivation trials for GMO maize.
In a statement well-received by pro-GMO organisations that contend that Kenya's population demand for food can best be met via adoption of GMO products, NBA chief executive Dr Willy Tonui said the approval only allowed for strictly field trials.
"The Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation (KALRO) and their partners, Africa Agricultural Technology Foundation(AATF) have been allowed to environmentally release the GMO maize to collect compositional analysis data," it said.
NBA declined to allow the state agency and its private partner to produce the same for commercial exploitation saying the trials must be strictly for research purposes.
Dr Tonui said that prior to establishment of the nationwide trial farms, the two agencies must perform an Environmental Impact Assessment and a Social Impact Study with the two reports forwarded to the National Environmental Management Authority(NEMA) for review and approval.
"The approval is granted subject to the applicants complying with other existing national laws and policies to his approval and provide a detailed Biosafety Stewardship Program and Monitoring Roadmap to NBA for approval," said the statement.
NBA said that upon receiving NEMA's consideration the field trials will be closely monitored and conducted by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service(KEPHIS) in collaboration with other relevant government regulatory agencies.
The statement said that more tests are needed before commercialization of GMO maize.
Dr Tonui said all precautionary measures would be taken to ensure that only varieties found safe are fit for human consumption and for the environment.
A Kenyatta University Plant Geneticist Mr Richard Oduor welcomed the development saying it had shown Kenya's regulatory capacity in validating GMO crops despite strong opposition from anti-GMO lobbies.
"A downright rejection would have demotivated researchers and students in Kenya. It would have been a mockery to the government that funds allocated to research and development of GM sweet potatoes among other food crops went to waste," said Mr Oduor.
Kenya's Organic Consumers Alliance Chief Executive Peter Mokaya urged for extreme caution in allowing GM technology application saying Kenya lacked capacity to monitor commercialisation of GM technology adding that more research should be conducted on safety concerns of GMOs.
Kenya Small-Scale Farmers Forum Secretary General Mr Justus Mwololo called for sensitization of farmers saying many farmers were aware of BT maize availability.