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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

MPs clash with biotechnology researchers over GMO ban

A file photo of civil society groups protesting outside Deputy President William Ruto's officer over the decision to lift a ban on GMOs. /PATRICK VIDIJA
A file photo of civil society groups protesting outside Deputy President William Ruto's officer over the decision to lift a ban on GMOs. /PATRICK VIDIJA

MPs on Tuesday clashed with biotechnology researchers over the lifting of the GMO ban.

The law makers dismissed a call to have the ban lifted and called for development of home grown biotechnology solutions rather than imposing "foreign ideologies".

“Our researchers should focus on home grown technologies that address some of the challenges farmers are facing such as aflatoxin, drought tolerant crop varieties and the stem borer pest,” said Agriculture Parliamentary committee chair Noor Mohammed.

He assured local scientists that as long as they focus on need based research, the committee will lobby the government to allocate more resources.

Mohammed made the remarks during a consultative meeting between the committee and biotechnology stakeholders.

He noted that there has not been any scientific evidence on the safety of GMOs, or any guarantee that it can offer a solution to food insecurity in the country.

Read: University students want government to issue licence of GMO maize

Also read: State launches GMO labelling mark amid jitters of effect on existent ban

“There is no research in the world specifically stating on the safety of the technology. Let any scientist give evidence in Kenya own up and that GMO is safe for human consumption,” he said.

Mohammed stated that MPs remarks should not be construed to mean that the political class in the country is against the introduction of GMO, but warned the researchers and other experts against issuing conflicting statements.

He said all the Parliamentary committees - health, agriculture, environment, education - and all the biotechnology researchers need to work together with a view to providing a common approach regarding the issue.

Dr Margaret Karembu emphasised on the need by the government to allow application of GMO as one of the tools to taming food insecurity and enhancing agricultural productivity.

“Any country that does not give opportunity to researcher will forever rely on other people’s products. GMOs have been proven safe by the World Health Organization and other global biotechnology players,” said Karembu.

Willy Tonui, the National Biosafety Authority CEO, assured Kenyans that there is no GMO product in the market and that the government is vigilant in monitoring all the foreign materials that are being imported in the county.


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