NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Scientists meeting in Nairobi have urged the
government to lift the ban that was imposed on the importation
of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in 2012.
Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) said
that the ban has slowed down the momentum that Kenya has built
in agricultural research.
"Other East African countries are proceeding at full
speed to commercialize a number of crops while Kenya’s
progress has stalled, " OFAB Kenya Chapter Programming
Committee Dr Margaret Karembu said during a meeting to brief
stakeholders on a recent GMOs benchmarking trip to Brazil.
Karembu said that Brazil has managed to become a surplus food
producing nation due to their adoption of GMOs. She said that
GMOs can also play a role in ensuring that Kenya achieves food
"The ban on GMOs was not based on sound scientific
evidence and this is having a negative impact on
agricultural research," he said.
The OFAB official added that biotechnology can be used
develop crops that drought and pest resistant.
"The uptake of biotech crops will have a positive impact
on farm income especially for the small scale farmers who
spend a large portion of their earnings on crops inputs such
as pesticides, " she said.
Karembu, who is also the Director of the International
Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA)
Africenter said that South Africa, Sudan and Burkina Faso are
among the African nations that have commercialized GMOs.
She said that Kenya is currently conducting or has completed
confined field trials on cassava, cotton, maize, sorghum and
Karembu added that globally there has been a hundred fold
increase in the acreage cultivated with GMO crops in the last 19
The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) Senior Biosafety
Officer Josphat Muchiri said that his organization has
approved 19 laboratory and greenhouses studies since in
NBA is also reviewing the fees, it charges for conducting
research on GMOs.
"We want to lower the fees in order to encourage more
research in the country," Muchiri said.
NBA charges about 1,800 U.S. dollars for a license for
contained use and 8,900 dollars for an environmental release of
Kenyan parliament to
commence debate on lifting GMO ban
NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
The Kenyan parliament will soon commence
discussions that will culminate in lifting a ban on
commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs),
lawmakers have said.
Robert Pukose, the Vice-Chair of Parliamentary Committee on
Health revealed there is a bipartisan consensus to fast-track
adoption of biotech crops in Kenya.
"Relevant committees will table a motion in parliament to
thrash out contentious issues that have derailed the
adoption of genetically engineered crops in the country,"
Pukose said during the launch of the 2014 report on the
status of biotechnology globally in Nairobi.
The report reveals that 18 million farmers in 28
countries planted 182 million hectares of biotech crops.
Kenya imposed a ban on importation or commercialization
of GMOs in 2012 in the wake of a study by a French scientist
that they cause cancerous tumors.
Pukose regretted that conspiracy theories have undermined
genetic engineering that heralds food security and wealth in
"There is no scientific evidence indicating that GMOs
cause cancers or disability.
"We must adopt tools that would enable the country become
food secure," Pukose told reporters.
A surgeon by profession, Pukose noted that development of
biotech crops involves rigorous adherence to health and
Concerned by growing food insecurity in the country, Kenyan
lawmakers were united in their call for adoption of genetically
Pukose regretted that an estimated 1.5 million Kenyans were
staring at starvation yet the country had the infrastructure and
human capacity to facilitate adoption of new farming methods.
"Kenya has invested in technology and expertise to shift from
traditional farming methods that are not sustainable in the face
of climate change, population growth and shrinking arable land,"
He revealed that parliamentary committees will discuss
findings of a government taskforce to review the benefits
and risks of GMOs.
"Parliament will adhere to constitutional requirements
like public participation to kick start the debate on GMOs.
"There is urgency to lift the ban on this technology that
promise food security and higher income for smallholders,"said
GMO debate polarizes
Kenyans, threatens investments in research
by Christine Lagat NAIROBI (Xinhua)
-- The debate over the pros and cons
of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has polarized Kenyans
from all walks of life and threatens huge investments in
scientific research to re-invent food production in the country.
While a growing body of scientific research hails the
potential of genetic engineering to revolutionize food
production, an equally large population of skeptics from the
Kenyan green movement warns of its potential dangers.
Scientists, policymakers and green activists who attended a
public forum were sharply divided over introduction of
genetically modified organisms.
Richard Oduor, Chairman of Kenya University Biotechnology
Consortium, said condemnation of genetically modified organisms
is not based on science but unjustified paranoia.
The head of biotechnology department at Kenyatta
University said Kenya has invested heavily in scientific
research, infrastructure and personnel to facilitate the
adoption of biotech crops.
"Science is clear that as a country, we cannot afford to
employ old methods to produce food and meet huge demands
from a growing population.
"No country has ever become food secure through
traditional farming systems," Oduor told campaigners.
Kenyan scientists have been lobbying the government to lift a
ban on GMOs. Oduor said the ban was not based on scientific
evidence and has jeopardized huge investments in research on
improved crop varieties.
"The government and development partners have invested
billions of dollars to undertake confined field trials on
improved maize, cotton, sorghum and potato varieties.
"Such efforts should not be in vain," Oduor said.
Kenya has established an independent agency to regulate GMOs
and enhance their safety to humans and the environment.
Oduor noted the enactment of biosafety act in 2009 has
strengthened Kenya’s capacity to respond to potential dangers of
"Research is still ongoing to address safety and efficacy
concerns on GMOs.
"We need a somber dialogue to minimize controversies
surrounding genetic engineering," said Oduor, adding that
Kenya risks becoming a perpetually food aid dependent nation
unless the government fast-tracks the adoption of biotech
Marion Mutugi, a Lecturer at Kabianga University, cautioned
against introduction of biotech crops based on their potential
threats to human health and indigenous biodiversity.
Mutugi was a member of a taskforce appointed by the Cabinet
Secretary for Health to review the capacity of Kenya’s
regulatory and policy environment to facilitate smooth adoption
The taskforce’s recommendation presented to the health
minister in April this year will be discussed by the cabinet and
will help inform lifting of the GMO ban.
Mutugi is among a large pool of Kenyan scientists opposed to
genetically modified organisms.
During her presentation at the public forum, Mutugi said
Kenya is not yet ready for large scale adoption of biotech
crops based on the fragile regulatory environment.
"We need to address fundamental issues like food
sovereignty, protection of natural capital and indigenous
knowledge before adopting genetic engineering in
agriculture," Mutugi said.
Kenya is among dozens of countries globally that have put a
brake on the journey towards adoption of biotech crops.
Mutugi said that even countries that have commercialized GMOs
have maintained some caveats to ensure citizens are protected
from unknown risks.
"There are moral, ethical and health concerns that should
not be ignored.
"Scientists, regulators, industry and consumer groups
should address those concerns," said Mutugi.
The Kenyan green movement has conducted nationwide campaign
against the introduction of genetically modified organisms.
Wanjiru Kamau, an official at Kenya Organic Agriculture
Network (KOAN), warned that agriculture biotechnology threatens
Kenya’s genetic diversity and food sovereignty.
"We require a precautionary approach to avert potential risks
of biotech crops to our rich biodiversity. Smallholders will be
at the mercy of multinational giants pushing for adoption of
GMOs," Wanjiru said.
Kenya Genetically Modified
Organisms ban affects biotech research: regulator
NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
The current ban on the importation of Genetically
Modified Organisms (GMOs) is affecting biotech research in the
country, the country’s biosafety regulator has said.
National Biosafety Authority (NBA) Technical Services
Director Dorington Ogoyi said the number of applications for GMO
research projects has plummeted since the ban was imposed in
"We used to receive eight applications for experimental
research per year but the figure is down to four," Ogoyi
said during a forum on Agricultural Biotechnology
He said Kenya has already developed the legal framework
required to ensure that GMOs don’t pose a risk to human and
animal health and the environment.
The East African nation imposed a ban on importation of
genetically modified foods in November 2012, following reports
linking them to cancer.
Cabinet Secretary for Health James Macharia then formed an
inter-agency taskforce last year to look into the social,
ecological and health impacts of introducing biotech crops.
The taskforce report on GMOs is yet to release its findings,
hence the current stalemate on their benefits or hazards.
Experts have warned that the prolonged ban on GMOs will lead
to massive loss of funds, food insecurity and poverty at the
Kenyatta University Department of Biochemistry and
Biotechnology Senior Lecturer Richard Odour said genetic
engineering of conventional crops will increase their
He said the technology could help develop crops that
address production constraints, adding that the GMO ban
means that Kenya cannot benchmark with international
Odour, who is also the Chairman of the Kenya University
Biotech Consortium, said the ban has affected the speed of
biotechnology research in East Africa.
Odour said there is GMO research ongoing on maize,
sorghum, sweet potato, pigeon pea, rice, peanut and cotton.
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech
Applications (ISAAA) Director Professor Margaret Karembu said
the current ban is impacting research as scientists are not
She said Kenya is a reference point in East Africa as far as
science is considered.
Farmers lobby urges Kenya
to maintain ban on GMOs
NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenya’s farmers lobby group have urged the
government to maintain its ban on genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) food until all safety concerns are addressed.
Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum (KSSF) Secretary General
Justus Kavi told journalists in Nairobi that the country is
capable of feeding itself by using conventional seeds varieties.
"The promotion of the technology in agriculture has been
done under the guise that GMOs are needed to address food
insecurity in Kenya and other African countries," Kavi said.
The government instituted a ban on the importation of GM
food in November 2012.
"However, the pro-GMO lobby groups and scientists have
engaged in campaigns to urge the government to lift the
ban," Kavi said, adding number of research organizations are
currently conducting field trials on biotech crops in the
Biotechnology experts from academic and research institutions
regretted that the ban has undermined the adoption of modern
technology and innovations to catalyze green revolution in
And there are concerns that the ban on GMOs could affect
Kenya’s technological advances.
Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) Board Member Jack
Rware said the cost of transgenic seeds is beyond the reach of
small scale farmers.
"GMOs are owned by foreign multinational seed firm and
therefore farmers will be required to pay royalties. Our
farmers will be at the mercy of private corporations," Rware
He added that GMOs contain terminator genes and therefore
cannot be replanted in the next planting season.
"However, most conventional seeds can be replanted," he
said, adding that Kenya can achieve food security through
use of indigenous plants varieties.
"With enough water on our lands, we will be able to grow more
food throughout the year using sustainable and ecological
friendly farming methods," he said.
Kenya maintains ban on
genetically modified organisms
NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenya will not lift the ban on importation of genetically
modified organisms (GMO) until regulatory agencies verify they
have no negative impacts to the environment and human health,
officials have said.
The Cabinet Secretary for Health, James Macharia said that it
is only the Cabinet that has powers to lift the ban on
commercialization of genetically engineered products.
"As for now, the ban on genetically modified organisms
remains in force. If there is any genetically modified
product in the country, it is an illegality," said Macharia.
He spoke during the presentation of taskforce report on
genetically modified organisms.
Macharia appointed a twelve member taskforce in October 2013
to review scientific literature and data on the effects of GMOs
to animal and human health, after the government imposed a ban
on importation of genetically modified organisms in November
2012 when a scientific journal linked them to cancers.
"Now that the report is ready, we require adequate time
to review it.
"We have confidence in the report findings and will
present them to parliamentary committee on agriculture for
discussion," Macharia told journalists.
The 12 member GMO taskforce comprised eminent personalities
drawn from industry, academia, government and civil society.
Its terms of reference included an assessment on Kenya’s
readiness to adopt genetically modified organisms in the light
of policy, regulatory and infrastructural safeguards.
The Chairman of the taskforce, Professor Kihumba Thairu said
that the 120 page report contained scientific data on the
benefits and demerits of GMOs.