As previously reported, Kenya has ordered a halt to all the Bt maize field trials being run by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and Syngenta.

Among the facts that have emerged is that a KARI scientist sprayed the Bt crop with a pesticide for the stem-borer - the pest that Syngenta's crop is supposed to be able to resist.

According to a new article (below), "no technician could have sprayed the GM seeds with a banned chemical without supervision."

This is described in the article as "sabotage". The article also reports, the government's view that "scientists funded by rich Western foundations are easy to compromise".

What is known is that scientists at KARI, where the research was taking place with the backing of the Syngenta Foundation amongst others, were under pressure to make a success of this research, after the 3 years of field trials KARI had previously run on Monsanto's GM sweetpotato had shown the Monsanto crop to be a complete dud (Monsanto's showcase project in Africa fails, New Scientist, Vol 181, 7 Feb 2004)

A further failure with the next GM crop in the pipeline - Syngenta's Bt maize - could have sounded the death knell for the showcase GM projects the industry has been running in Kenya.

Spraying would obviously have the effect of biasing the results in favour of the GM crop.

Kenya suspends research on GM maize
Angola Press, 31 August 2005

Nairobi, Kenya, 08/31 - Kenya has suspended field trials on genetically modified maize after a major anomaly was discovered in the process in a move aimed at stopping further abuse of procedures until proper legislation is put in place, sources said here Tuesday.

Kenyan officials feared the advances in the field trials of the genetically modified maize could harm the lives of thousands of its consumers should it be allowed to move further into commercial production despite huge financial investments in the research.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS), the national watchdog agency tasked with enforcing standards and ensuring quality research, has rejected plans to have the field trials continue, citing lack of integrity by scientists to safeguard public safety.

According to the KEPHIS directors, the country is ill prepared for GM research as no legal framework is in place to give rules on the conduct of research involving human life, as scientists funded by rich Western foundations are easy to compromise.

Kenyan Agriculture Secretary Wilson Songa was quoted by the local Daily Nation as saying scientists have succumbed to pressure from international groups to rubber-stamp research on GM, even if the right procedures were not followed.

Scientists said the field trials, which were halted after a major breach of research procedures was discovered, smacked of acts of sabotage as no technician could have sprayed the GM seeds with a banned chemical without supervision.

The maize research focusing on enhancing resistance to the stalk borer, a disease that deprives farmers of thousands of tonnes of maize yields, was on its final phase before commercial production.

The spraying of a chemical called Furadan compromised its success, they said.

Furadan is sprayed on maize seeds to reduce the influence of the stalk borer.

Scientists could not determine the effectiveness of the maize seedlings or samples after they were sprayed with the chemicals because it was difficult to determine whether the end product would be naturally resistant to the stalk borer.

"We do not have baseline data on the impact of the maize on non-target plants and insects. This was a major omission, as supervisors in the field have nothing to rely on. They shouldn’t have gone on the ground without some baseline study on the environment," Songa said.

Kenya has not passed a biosafety law but a draft bill has been gathering dust at the attorney general’s offices waiting for a cabinet approval and the onward transmission to parliament for debate and possible approval.

Ochieng Ogodo, an environmental journalist in Nairobi, said the bill is expected to give guidelines on which procedures to be applied in conducting research on GM, a thorny issue across Africa.

African countries have expressed their disgust with Western institutions seeking to get an across the board approval for GM foods as a panacea to Africa`s hunger crisis -- an issue which has left many on the continent unconvinced.