GMO myths and facts as Kenya lifts 10-year ban

Economy

GMO myths and facts as Kenya lifts 10-year ban


A corn plantation. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya on Monday approved the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops, lifting a 10-year ban on foods derived from biotechnology in the country.

The new government hopes the move will help tackle the current high cost of food in the country, which pushed inflation to a 63-month high in September.

The decision is also a major victory for local scientists who for the past 12 years have been developing genetically modified seeds in confined field trials. But he is preparing to pit the Ruto administration against anti-GMO activists.

What are GMOs?

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are those whose genetic makeup has been altered for a particular purpose or use, giving them the ability to withstand certain stresses that researchers want to tackle.

For example, the variety of GMO maize that Kenyan scientists studied can tolerate drought and insect stress.

GMO crops were first approved for human consumption in the United States in 1994, and in 2014/2015 approximately 90% of corn, cotton and soybeans planted in America were genetically modified.

By the end of 2014, GMO crops covered nearly 1.8 million square kilometers of land in more than 24 countries around the world.

Who owns the technology?

The GMO technology is solely owned by German conglomerate Bayer, which acquired US giant Monsanto in 2018, which previously patented the technology.

Why GMOs?

GMOs have been touted to improve farmers’ yields and with the vagaries of the weather, occasioned by climate change, scientists say these varieties can withstand harsh weather conditions and allow growers to have at least a percentage of their harvest in the worst years.

Scientists claim that the GM maize variety that was developed in Kenya has a 40% yield advantage over the locally grown conventional hybrid.

The cost element

According to the researchers, it is cheaper to produce GM corn than conventional varieties. In effect, GMOs eliminate the need for expensive chemicals to control pests and diseases.

The low cost of production makes GM maize cheaper on the world market compared to conventional white maize.

Are GMOs safe for human consumption? Do they cause cancer?

A report discredited in a journal in 2012 claimed that rats fed GMOs developed a cancerous tumor. It is on this basis that the Kenyan government has banned GMOs.

Scientists have dismissed claims that GMOs cause cancer and instead argued that they can help fight this terminal disease given that they can combat aflatoxin on grains, which is one of the leading causes of cancer in Kenya.

Are there any known side effects of GMOs?

GMOs have been approved by agencies such as the United States Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

No known scientific study has published the side effects of consuming GMOs.

GMO trip to Kenya

Testing of GM maize in Kenya began in 2010, but environmental release approval was granted by the National Biosafety Authority in 2016, with scientists only allowed to grow the variety in fields. confined.

Scientists completed their research last year and the material is awaiting Cabinet approval before being released for commercial farming.

Are there currently GMOs in Kenya?

Currently, there are no GMO foods on the Kenyan market. The few genetically modified materials in the country are only for study and are protected in research institutes under the watchful eye of the National Biosafety Authority – the industry regulator.

However, the Cabinet in 2019 approved the commercialization of genetically modified cotton to boost the textile industry in the country and create jobs under the Big Four Agenda initiative of the previous government.

Who will benefit from the lifting of the ban on GMOs in Kenya?

Over the years, millers have urged the government to lift the GMO import ban to boost local grain stocks. Traders who deal in grain imports and companies that manufacture seeds will be the other big winners.

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