, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 15 – Education, Science and Technology Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi has revealed plans by the government to lift a ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and commercialise them by year’s end.
In a statement during celebrations to mark the National Biosafety Authority’s ISO 9001:2008 certification, Kaimenyi urged the Authority to step up its efforts at sensitising Kenyans on GMOs.
“I urge the Authority to create more public awareness on biosafety especially at this time when the country is preparing to commercialise GM products in Kenya. Many people in Kenya do not yet differentiate between a big tomato and a GMO,” the statement read on his behalf said.
The Principal Secretary for the Department of Science and Technology, Collette Suda, joined the Cabinet Secretary in urging the Authority to demystify GMOs as the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute prepares to launch genetically modified cotton into the Kenyan market.
“Some of the medicines being used in hospitals are also genetically engineered. Why is it that we have a lot of controversies in GM crops?” she posed.
The NBA Chief Executive Officer, Willy Tonui, sought to allay fears surrounding GMOs and called on the Executive to hasten the lifting of the ban on GMOs as scientist have been unable to conclusively establish a link between them and cancer.
“Resistance to GMOs is too much and it’s based on lack of evidence. NBA has provided them (the Executive) with evidence about GM foods so I think in future there’ll be need to reconsider the ban by lifting it and we hope that it’ll happen very soon,” he said.
He added his voice to that of various millers and scientists who argue that genetically modified maize would help Kenya achieve food security pointing out that countries such as Uganda and South Sudan have already embraced the technology.
“The products have been around for a while and consumed for a while and there has not been a legitimate case of humans or animals affected as a result of consuming the modified foods,” Zhulieta Willbrand, an International Trade Specialist with the United States Department of Agriculture, told Capital FM Business.
The government position on GMOs in the past has been contradictory with Former President Mwai Kibaki’s government in 2011 first permitting the importation of Genetically Modified maize for millers before banning it in November of 2012.