Kenya is withholding approval for field trials of genetically-modified corn because some officials argue that a ban on GMO imports applies to controlled growing tests as well, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.
Talks involving representatives from the health and environment ministries and the National Biosafety Authority reached a deadlock in meetings held to discuss applications last week, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private.
The National Environmental Management Authority halted the applications to test seeds from Kenya Livestock and Research Organization and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation last year in October, after the two science research bodies received the go-ahead from the National Bio-safety Authority.
A spokesman for Kalro, as the organization is known, was not available to comment on the application. A representative of AATF declined to comment on Thursday.
The impasse is preventing Kenya from becoming the second nation in sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa to allow cultivation of GM corn. Corn meal is a staple food throughout much of southern and eastern Africa.
The committee will need to seek guidance from Cabinet on the way forward, the person said.
The corn trials would have been conducted by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service in multiple locations on small plots of about two acres, and lasted about one growing season, or about six months.
Kenya is importing corn from Mexico and approved shipments of yellow corn from Ukraine for the first time since 2011 due to a drought that has affected the region. Corn yields in Kenya this season have halved because of the drought, the National Drought Management Authority said on Feb. 6.