(Photo courtesy The Standard)
By Hilda Kavai
President William Ruto lifted a 10-year ban on Genetically Modified (GM) crops on October 4, 2022, allowing their importation into the country.
As expected, the move has elicited mixed reactions from a variety of sources. Opponents of genetically modified foods have stated that President Ruto acted too quickly and that a task force should have been formed first to conduct public participation and awareness creation before implementation.
As Kenya prepares to commercialize genetically modified crops, some farmers and advocacy groups are raising concerns about their safety.
The fact that many Kenyan farmers will begin using genetically modified (GM) maize seeds early next year, following the government’s recent lifting of a 10-year ban on the crops.
According to the country’s agricultural authority, the seeds will be planted on half a million acres and will be drought resistant, helping to alleviate shortages caused by a lack of rain.
Kenya is currently facing a severe water shortage as a result of four failed consecutive rainy seasons, as well as one of the worst droughts in the East African region in four decades. This means that crops cannot grow, prompting warnings of impending famine. They claim that the lifting of the GMO ban was motivated by a genuine need to ensure food security and environmental protection.
Kenyan farmers can now openly cultivate GM crops and import genetically modified foods and animal feeds, such as white GMO maize, now that the ban has been lifted. Maize is Kenya’s staple food, and it is grown on 90% of all Kenyan farms. It is used to make ugali, or maize meal, the country’s most popular dish.
According to scientists, the GMO maize variety developed in Kenya has a 40 percent yield advantage over the conventional hybrid grown locally.
Agriculture employs 80% of Kenya’s rural population and is the backbone of the country’s economy. Kenyan farmers rely on their crops not only for a living but also to feed their families.
There are also concerns that farmers who begin using GMOs will become overly reliant on the companies that sell genetically modified seeds, allowing them to dominate the market at the expense of ordinary Kenyan farmers.
Kenya is the continent’s eighth country to approve the use of GMOs. They are currently permitted for cultivation in 70 countries worldwide.
According to a state agency in charge of general supervision and control over the transfer, handling, and use of GMOs, the maize varieties have undergone clinical trials and have passed safety assessments.