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Kenya yet to accept GMOs

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 7 – The Ministry of Agriculture says it is still conducting research on Genetically Modified foods (GMO) before they can be allowed into the local market.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto said although GMOs would significantly transform Kenya into a food sufficient country, the technology would only be allowed once the country is able to produce sufficient local varieties.

According to the minister, close to 90 percent of the grain in the global market is genetically modified and blamed it to Kenya’s food deficiency as the country cannot import GMOs.

"It’s necessary for us as a country, not to get stuck on what happened before. We have to progressively move towards better use of research and scientific knowledge to solve the issue of food shortage," Mr Ruto said.

He was adamant that no Genetically Modified Foods had entered Kenyan shops and assured Kenyans of the safety of the food they are consuming.

The country is currently experiencing its worst drought in years which has claimed many lives with millions more reported to be relying of food aid due to scarcity of food.

He said for the time being, the government would work on subsidising farm inputs for farmers to stabilise the food situation.

"We must strive in the next one to two seasons to transform Kenya from a food deficient nation to a food sufficient one," he said.

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The Biosafety Act received presidential assent early this year to among other things establish a National Biosafety Authority to regulate activities in genetically modified organism, but is yet to be implemented.

Failure to implement it has compounded the current food situation in the country.

Mr Ruto was speaking during the inauguration of the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) board of directors at his Kilimo House office.

He challenged the new board to match government efforts towards transforming agricultural production in the country.

The board’s new chairperson Prof Julia Ojiambo vowed to uphold the corporation’s core values and inculcate transparency, accountability integrity and customer focus in its operations.

Mr Ruto said the Cabinet had already approved the KEPHIS Bill, which will give it more autonomy.

Currently, the KEPHIS mandate is outlined in legal notice No. 305 of 1996, which the minister said needed to be changed to stimulate agricultural growth as well as adequately address emerging challenges in the sector.

The KEPHIS Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament before the end of the year.

If implemented the new law will enable the corporation negotiate for international funding, seek partnerships with other research institutions, as well give it better latitude to deliver on its mandate without necessarily relying on government support.

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