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More dissent for Bio Safety Bill

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 15 – Imenti North Member of Parliament Cyrus Muriuki on Thursday urged President Mwai Kibaki not to assent to the Bio-safety Bill to allow amendments to ensure public safety.

Speaking during the launch of the Intellectual Property Initiative Project in Nairobi, he claimed that his colleagues in Parliament rushed to pass the bill without considering the negative impact inherent in the proposed law.

“The Bill did not handle issues which are very critical to this country, as much as we are saying it will address food security, it may even worsen. There is so much risk that we will take Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) as a way of farming,” he said.

The MP expressed concerns that the Bill was passed without thought for the long term effects.

He said farming through GMOs should not be commercialised since the technology still remains a mystery, and added that it was not suitable for mass production without any form of control, as there was a likelihood it could be misused.

“GMOs should be used in cases of emergencies, otherwise using it throughout poses a threat of abuse by farmers,” he noted.

Mr Muriuki pointed at issues to do with patents, which he said the Bill did not clarify, such as whether farmers will have access to the GMO seeds when they are brought to the country.

“They need to be assured that they will be made available to them and this law in waiting does not resolve this,” he said.

The MP also noted that issues on warehousing, marketing, safety and cross-border trade were not clear in the Bill and said there was a risk of a cartel developing as has been evident in the handling of maize and oil.

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Mr Muriuki also said that the Bill was prepared without proper consultations, especially with the stakeholders.

He expressed displeasure that many Bills are passed to protect personal interests, which usually seem to favour the multinationals.

A specialist from the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) Dr Wilbur Lwande also said the Bio-Safety Bill was hurried without consulting the public.

He said Kenya was currently losing huge sums of money because very little effort had been made to discover and develop products from natural sources.

“Products from nature bring a lot of money; it is estimated at $600 billion per year generated from nature. The products include medicine, agricultural products, industrial products, cosmetics…”

Dr Lwande said the country could only benefit, if there is an initiative to explore useful products in a sustainable way that does not affect the environment.

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