News Column

Kenya: 13 Governors Say "Unscientific" GMO Ban be Lifted

June 9, 2014

-    GM will Help Revive Textile Industry

By ScienceAfrica Team (B. Mukatia, Fred Kubai, Kiprotich Koros)

2- June, 2014 - 13

Governors have joined scientists and researchers in the call of government to lift the ban on importation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) amid fears of looming food insecurity and declining agricultural productivity in the country. The Governors from cotton growing counties led by Jack Ranguma, chairman of the Health and Biotechnology Committee in the Council of Governors have called on the government to expedite the commercialization of Bt cotton in the country by lifting the ban on Genetically Modified (GM) food importation.

The Governors told those attending Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology held at a Nairobi hotel, that they had earmarked adoption of the improved cotton variety to create investment and employment opportunities in their counties.  They also registered their frustration at the delayed commercialization of Bt cotton.

Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma called on the government to lift the ban on the importation of genetically modified food saying it will revive the cotton industry in the country. "We are ready in promoting the use of agricultural biotechnology to enhance food security in our counties," the Governor said.

He told Kenyan to shun rumors linked to false research against biotechnology and people who turn a blind eye to some of the obvious advantages of GMOs including improved food security, economy or income. Nations that lead in food production and exports have embraced biotechnology, he added. 

The governor who termed the ban "emotional" said the decision was made in disregard of professional advice from relevant government agencies.

"Statistics have shown that the world will not be able to feed itself by 2030 if we do not go GMO," he said. "Scientists of repute all over the world say GMO is safe. It is important that we embrace what science tells us," he added.

"Bt. (GM) cotton will reduce the number of sprays from twelve to three which is value for the farmer," he said. "Unless we move in that direction, we will not be able to feed the world, he added.

Bt cotton has gone through the laboratory phase, the supervision phase, several confined field trials supervised by National Biosafety Authority and the data generated that will contribute to the final process of environmental release said Dr. Dorington Ogoyi, Technical Director, National Biosafety Authority (NBA).

KARI Thika Centre Director, Dr. Charles Waturu said the ban in 2012 was ill advised and based on wrong information. "Anybody fighting GM crops is fighting a losing battle," he said, adding that Bt. Cotton research which has been going on for the last ten years in the country will solve both pests and weed related problems since the crop is insect resistant and herbicide tolerance.

The then Cabinet Minister for Health Beth Mugo banned the importation of GM food products into Kenya after the controversial report by French scientist Seralini linking GMO's to cancer. The study was later retracted by Food and Chemical Toxicology after its experimental design came under question.

A number of GM crops are currently under biosafety trials where scientists are evaluating traits such as insect, disease and virus resistance, drought tolerance and bio-fortification. The agricultural sector contributes 24 per cent of GDP and provides livelihoods of over 80 per cent of the Kenyan population.

The textile industry was the leading manufacturing industry in the country supporting more than 200,000 households. But the mid - 1980s saw the start of a downward spiral with the importation of used clothes and liberalization of the economy which has seen Asian textiles flood the market.





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Source: Science Africa