Date: 20 January 2017 11:41
Scientists have been challenged to fast track research on the viability of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to mitigate against perennial food shortages in the country.
The National Assembly’s Agriculture Committee said that research aimed at releasing locally produced GMOs to the market would improve food security.
Committee chairman Adan Mohammed Noor said the team was against lifting the ban on importation of GMOs to encourage local production.
“We have no problem if, as a country, we can develop our own GM crops. What we stopped is importation of ready-made GM food,” Mr Noor told the Nation on Friday.
He said locally produced crop varieties will not only result in additional food but will also economically empower farmers and research institutions.
“Our farmers stand to benefit by growing GM crops, but, not by others growing and bringing to us,” the Mandera North MP said.
Scientists and students have been piling pressure on the government to lift the ban on GMOs that has been in place since 2012.
The proscription, they said, is unnecessary because Kenya has adequate institutions led by the National Biosafety Authority, mandated to ensure the GMO products are safe.
Emuhaya MP Wilberforce Otichilo said GMOs were the solution to perennial hunger and drought in the country.
He faulted the government for short-changing the country by “standing in the way of technology”.
He said GMOs would improve food production as the seeds are adaptable to drought, resistant to pests and are fast maturing.
He said thought the president Kenyatta has said the budget will be reviewed to create funds towards 1.5 million faced with starvation, efforts to find a lasting solution has not been successful.
“Drought has become a song in Kenya. People have been suffering each year. Kenyans are fed up with rhetoric and reactionary measures that never guarantee long term solutions,” Mr Noor said.
He said besides bureaucracies that has led to funds meant for emergency being released late and in piecemeal, the president has the goodwill to serve people but his people are letting him down.
The National Environment Management Authority’s (Nema) has been criticised for declining to issue a permit for GMO field trials to the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) in partnership with African Agricultural Technology Foundation.
“We demand that Nema stop operating at the whims of the Ministry of Health and issue the required permit for GMO field trials particularly for GM maize,” Moi University student leader Towett Ng’etich said.
The Cabinet Secretary, in a letter to Nema opposing the planned GM maize field trials, had maintained that the GMO in Kenya remains bound by the cabinet decision that banned the biotech foods.
The maize developed locally has been awaiting National performance Trials (NPT) since February 2016 when the NBA approved it.
The Kenya University Biotechnology Consortium (Kubico) secretary-general, Dr Joel Ochieng, claimed Nema was out to derail the local research.
Dr Ochieng said a study that linked GMO crops to cancer, which Kenya relied on to announce the ban has since been retracted following concerns that it didn’t adhere to standard procedures.