International Collaboration Receives Regulatory Approval of Cassava Brown Streak Disease Resistant Cassava in Kenya

ST. LOUIS, MO, June 23, 2021 – The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has received approval from the Kenyan National Biosafety Authority (NBA) for environmental release of cassava that is resistant to cassava brown streak disease (CBSD). The approval paves the way for conducting national performance trials (NPTs), the final step of testing new varieties before they can be registered and released to farmers.

The disease-resistant cassava was developed under the Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa Plus (VIRCA Plus) project, an international collaboration between the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) in Uganda, the Rwandan Agriculture Board (RAB), Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO.

In parallel with the NPTs, the VIRCA Plus team is working to multiply, deliver and steward the improved varieties to Kenyan farmers once they are registered and fully approved by regulatory authorities.

Through a decision document dated June18, 2021, the NBA Board approved the application following necessary review in accordance with the country’s Biosafety Act. The researchers used modern biotechnology to introduce a small part of two viruses that cause CBSD into the cassava plant to make it resistant. The process used augments a naturally occurring plant defense mechanism against viruses. The improved cassava was evaluated over a period of five years, in confined field trials (CFTs) in six different locations in Kenya and Uganda, and showed high and stable defense against CBSD, a disease that can result in up to 100 percent loss of usable storage roots in severe infection.

According to NBA’s Chief Executive Officer, Prof. Dorington Ogoyi, the decision was arrived at following a rigorous and thorough review, taking into account food, feed, and environmental safety assessment as well as consideration of socio-economic issues. The review process also factored public comments for 30 days, in line with the Kenyan constitution that calls for public participation.

“This is a welcome decision and a significant step to getting disease-resistant cassava into the hands of Kenyan farmers for addressing food security challenges,” said KALRO Director General Dr. Eliud Kireger. “We thank the NBA and all those who participated in the review for their diligent consideration of the application.”

More details about next steps of the project will be coming soon.

About VIRCA Plus
VIRCA Plus, a multi-institutional project working to improve resistance to viruses that cause cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) and to increase levels of iron and zinc in the storage roots, the edible part of the plant. VIRCA Plus collaborates with research scientists, regulatory experts and communication specialists with the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Rwanda. For more information please visit, cassavaplus.org.

For additional information contact:
Karla Roeber
Vice President, Public and Government Affairs
kroeber@danforthcenter.org, 314.406.4287