Lawmakers join opposition to GMOs

July 20, 2011 1:01 pm

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – The Cabinet decision to allow the importation of Genetically Modified foods (GMOs) has kicked up a storm, with a section of Members of Parliament insisting that the produce is not safe.

Legislators Joshua Kutuny, John Pesa and Charles Keter on Wednesday claimed that there was a deliberate attempt by some members of government to force GMO maize into the market in the pretext of addressing a food shortage.

Last week, the Cabinet approved the importation of GMO maize to ease the current hunger situation experienced in parts of the country.

“What action did the government take last year when there was bumper maize harvest in parts of the country?” posed Mr Kutuny, while his Belgut counterpart Mr Keter questioned the sincerity of those pushing for the importation of GMO maize.

“Maybe some multinationals are using some other Kenyans to influence the importation because of money anyway,” Mr Keter opined.

“All we need is to subsidise costs for the farmers, let us get other methods of farming and then Kenya should be able to produce food which will feed Kenyans,” remarked Migori Mr Pesa.

An environmental lawyer Benson Ochieng’ told Capital News that there were a lot of legal concerns with GMO’s.

“You cannot vouch for the safety and health of it, and the precautionary principle basically states that we would rather err that this thing was wrong if it wasn’t wrong than be sorry that we thought it is right but then it is not right,” Mr Ochieng’ said.

He said if the country was to allow production of GMO as is in the bio safety act, it may create dependency on specific manufacturing companies.

“The companies that manufacture these GMO’s are able to introduce certain manipulative activity within the gene so that the seed can only grow once. It creates a dependency that farmers have to keep going back to the same companies to buy the seeds year in year out,” he said.

“There is also a danger in the ownership of biotechnology products. Definitely the companies that produce these transgenic seeds are interested in recouping their cost of investment in that but more importantly they are interested in making profits,” the environmental lawyer added.

He was of the opinion that the National Bio safety Authority lacked the experience and capacity to deal with the issue of GMO’s.

“What we fear is that if this technology is not properly managed, is not properly contained then there is the real possibility that those technologies can wipe away the seeds and the gene pool that are adapted to our local conditions,” he said.

“Can they prove that they have the capacity. We have an institution in this country called KEPHIS which is supposed to have officers at border points inspecting whether there is any foreign material that is coming into the country either in form of plant or animal but how many times do you get a feeling that such an institution exists? We have such porous borders that we cannot even monitor illegal immigration into the country how will we be able to monitor the safety of GMOs?” he questioned adding that technology was supposed to bring positive benefits.

However, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) Managing Director Dr James Onsando dismissed the health and environmental concerns and said that the technology had been tested and it was safe.

“This entire hullabaloo is misinformation.  It is propaganda and instilling fear in people with no scientific backup and I am speaking as a scientist who has capacity to understand the development of GMO and clearly there is no scientific merit,” Dr Onsando asserted.

He said the technology was acceptable around the globe.

“A lot of bio safety research is done before its approval to make sure it does not cause harm to humans or cause allergies,” the KEPHIS boss said.

He said that GMO maize was 99 percent conventional maize and one percent was the specific gene that has been introduced.


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