Kenya: Lawmaker Champions Uptake of GMOs to Boost Food Security

A senator has urged the government to hasten passage of laws to allow growing of genetically modified crops (GMOs) to promote food security and economic growth.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Daniel Karaba said countries that had embraced the technology are more food secure and have a thriving economy.

Addressing a biotech communication and sensitisation training for journalists and extension officers at Montain Breeze hotel in Embu County, Mr Karaba said the country risks not realising the Vision 2030 if it does not embrace the technology.

He dismissed talks of GMO foods as being responsible for cancer as myth.

“We should not talk about cancer as being a result of biotechnology. This is a retrogressive propaganda that will not help us. We can’t think that we will be dynamic unless we act now. Biotechnology will help Kenya employ more people in agriculture and manufacturing areas,” said Mr Karaba.

On why the undertaking is facing opposition, the Kirinyaga County Senator said the problem is that leaders who visit countries that practice biotechnology do not share the information they gather with the right people who can influence appropriate decision-making.

He added that the Senate will soon hold discussions with the Health and Agriculture Cabinet secretaries in a bid to see how the country can reap the benefits of biotechnology and demystify myths confronting it.

“Politicians who attend these benchmarking trips only proclaim how South Korea, Indonesia and other countries were at the same economic level as Kenya. We have seen countries turn around their economy after embracing the technology,” he observed.

“We go and learn many things but we don’t disseminate the information for it to be utilized. China feeds its large population and still remains with surplus for export.”

Ms Jane Otadoh, assistant director in charge of Biotechnology (BT) at the Ministry of Agriculture said the push for accepting the system of production was driven by a need for better quality produce.

She also assured Kenyans that BT foods are not harmful. They produce high yields and are drought and pest resistant. This will facilitate availability of sufficient food and reduced financial burden of employing the use of pesticides.

Ms Otadoh indicated that over 180 million hectares worldwide is under GMO food crop farming.

Dr John Kimani, the centre director, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, Mwea, said GMO foods would be labelled to give consumers a choice to buy or not.

The workshop was organised by African Agricultural Technology Foundation and Water Efficient Maize for Africa (Wema).

Source: The Nation