Kenya to revoke ban on GMO food

The Government will in two months lift the ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to improve food security.
Deputy President William Ruto Wednesday said the ban, which was imposed in 2012, will be reversed to increase food production in the country. He said the Government was to consider the use of biotechnology (genetically modified organisms) to increase food production.

Despite the news, GMO products are still shrouded in mystery, with most Kenyans not fully understanding what it means to genetically modify an organism.

“We are going to reverse the ban of GMO foods soon. Kenya cannot be left behind when the world is embracing biotechnology because of unseen fears and misinformation,” the DP said, before he was put to task by scientists who asked for a time frame.

“We will be removing the ban in one or two months. Already, government agencies concerned with bio technology have agreed on necessary regulations and safety measures to be adhered to,” added the DP.

Speaking during the opening of the National Biosafety Conference at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies in Nairobi, Mr Ruto said the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) had the capabilities to determine the safety of such foods.

The development comes at a time scientists from Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation are awaiting the approval of their application for environmental release of the first ever GM maize variety in the country by NBA.

This is an insect-pest protected GM maize variety known worldwide as Bt maize, which according to the scientists help farmers increase their yields by reducing damage caused by stem-borer insect pests.

NBA has already published public notification regarding the application for regulatory approval of insect-protected Bt maize. The public is invited to send their comments to NBA.

Scientists discouraged

Approval of the maize will pave way for variety release and registration through trials and eventual delivery to farmers through seed companies.

Ruto said there was need to embrace science to revolutionise agriculture. “The public must embrace science because it will lead us to more advancement. It is upon our scientists to confound critics now,” he said, to the applause of scientists who had attended the conference.

The DP said opponents have been giving reasons that are not scientifically proven.

He likened it to the entry of Safaricom mobile money transfer M-pesa, which was almost rejected. he said.

Agricultural researcher Margaret Karembu said scientists remain discouraged as the ban is still in force. “Some people are out to frustrate our efforts. We have suffered as the ban has slowed our research work,” she said.

Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi said there was general misinformation about GMO products. “There are fears and concerns and this should be addressed,” he said.