2011/2012 Yearbook Agriculture

Biotechnology

The Kenya National Biosafety Authority (KNBA), under the Ministry of Higher Education, is the agency mandated to implement the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety of which Kenya is a signatory. The authority should establish a national biosafety clearing house to monitor biotechnology products coming into the country. To ensure the public has up-to-date information on biotechnology and its products, KNBA is expected to promote data sharing with other leading institutions in the world, among them the Biosafety Clearing House in Montreal, Canada. This is important given the sensitivity that revolves around the use of genetically modified organisms.

The Government has also embarked, with the help of research institutions, on identifying research areas that could help in the formulation of policies to foster science education and popularise science, mainly biotechnology, to help address food insecurity problems, among others. The Ministry of Agriculture, with the help of research institutions under it, is focusing on research and development of biotechnology in food and agriculture, health, industry, environment and bio-resources development. The move is expected to accelerate indigenous acquisition and development of relevant and affordable requisite biotechnology programmes.

The authority will ensure that the country’s bioresource endowment and comparative and competitive advantages are sustainably exploited, through indigenous bioprospecting of the rich biodiversity for use in agriculture, environment, health and industry. Tissue culture is a proven technology for supply of large quantities of superior clean planting material within a short period. The technology is being used to address the decline in banana production in the country, due to soil-borne diseases and pests.

Tissue culture technology is considered safe and free of pests. The technology promoted by Kari and nongovernmental organisation, has been appealing to small scale farmers who have seen their yields constrained by land degradation and declining farm sizes. Tissue culture enables farmers to harvest and sell fairly large quantities of bananas at one time. Tissue culture is one of the methods being used by the government to increase food production.