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[NAIROBI] The Kenyan government has approved its policy on how biotechnology is handled in research, development, and in its application.

The National Biotechnology Development Policy 2006 approved by the cabinet last month (28 September) marks the go-ahead for the use of biotechnology in the country.

It outlines the safety procedures for biotechnology in the context of research and development, technology transfer and commercialisation of products that would result from research undertaken in Kenya.

According to the Kenyan minister for Science and Technology, Noah Wekesa, the document recognises the role that biotechnology can play in poverty reduction, enhancing food security and conservation of the environment and biodiversity.

The policy identifies industry and trade as key areas for using biotechnology and is committed to ensuring that information on its development is accurately and efficiently communicated to the public.

Priority is given to the provision of relevant infrastructure, framework facilities and other resources for the rapid and safe development and application of biotechnology in agriculture, environment, health, industry and research.

It aims to ensure that Kenya's biotechnology industry develops in a sustainable way, while getting its benefits to these key areas, says Wekesa.

But the policy also takes a strong line on the ethical, environmental and biosafety concerns of biotechnology.

Wekesa says that the policy will safeguard Kenya's citizens and environment against the development or introduction of harmful organisms.

"This will provide those developing and applying the technology with a clear framework within which to operate in order to address fears on safety," Wekesa was reported to have said in The Sunday Standard.

The policy outlaws human cloning, terminator technologies and any other technology found to be entailing unethical scientific practice. 

The government also plans to create legislation to deal with genetically modified organisms as they are developed, following an ongoing risk assessment.

Any use of biotechnology in Kenya must receive the approval of the designated authority and meet the requirements of Kenya's Environment Management and Coordination Act of 1999.