HEALTHY FARMING

GMOs contribute to hunger and malnutrition, group says

NGO says they are nutritionally empty, deplete water sources and increase greenhouse gases

In Summary

• Official says popularisation of GMOs has taken away decision-making of women

• She calls on agricultural researchers to share research outcomes with farmers

Unicef good will ambassador Kevin Umbima with residents of Nakodet in Turkana County while attending screening and treatment of children suffering from malnutrition on Junly 12, 2017.
Unicef good will ambassador Kevin Umbima with residents of Nakodet in Turkana County while attending screening and treatment of children suffering from malnutrition on Junly 12, 2017.
Image: JACK OWUOR

Genetically modified organisms are contributors to hunger and malnutrition, the German foundation Heinrich Böll Stiftung said on Tuesday.

Speaking in Nairobi on Tuesday, gender democracy programme coordinator Caroline Kioko said indigenous foods provide far more nutrition than the commodities produced by industrial agriculture.

Apart from being nutritionally empty, she said GMOs deplete water sources, increases greenhouses gases and drive farmers into debt through greater dependence on agricultural inputs like seeds, fertilisers or pesticides.

Women in Kenya provide 80 per cent of farm labour and manage 40 per cent of the country’s smallholder farms, Kioko said.

“Women are the primary growers of food and nutrition throughout history, but today food is being taken out of their hands and substituted with toxic commodities controlled by multinational corporations,” Kioko said.

The official said GMOs have been engineered to withstand the direct application of herbicides. 

“Women are the custodians of most of Kenya's food production... and over time have developed adaptive measures to the environment. There is a need to build capacity to use scientific intervention to prevent harm to women and to nature.”

Kioko called on agricultural researchers to share research outcomes with farmers in order to promote best farming practices in Kenya.

“The focus on GM seeds which are more expensive due to patent fees has minimised the accessibility of seeds for farmers, particularly women small scale farmers who are likely to be less well-off,” she said.

She added, “The commercialisation of agriculture and popularisation of GMOs has taken away decision-making power from women who are the majority of the small-scale farmers.”

 

Adequate nutrition is critical to children’s growth and development, Kioko said.

She said the period from birth to two years is important for optimal physical, mental and cognitive growth, health, and development.

“Malnutrition in women results in increased susceptibility to infections and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes or cancer, slowed recovery from illness, and a heightened risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes,” she said.

Edited by R.Wamochie