Kenya smallholder tea farmers earn Sh63.6 billion from tea exports
Cabinet secretary disowns GMOs import ban calls for review
By Ben Kinyanjui
Education, Science and Technology cabinet secretary Prof Jacob Kaimenyi want import ban on GMOs imposed by the former government last year lifted.
Prof Kaimenyi says the ban was not supported by scientific evidence and should be reviewed the soonest possible.
“The fears that were fueled by the widely discredited study by Professor Gilles Seralini in France culminated in a cabinet ban on GMO food imports last year; Kaimenyi said when he opened a conference on Biosafety in Nairobi Wednesday.
“Since then, nobody has really re-looked at some of the issues raised during the ban despite calls from the scientists’ community to reassess the ban.”
The said study by Seralini had concluded that rats fed on GMO products developed cancerous tumours but studies commissioned by the European Union and the African Union had concluded that this was not true.
The ban imposed by former Public Health minister Beth Mugo who is now a nominated Senator has continued to elicit strong feelings from pro-GMOs supporters who insist that the motive was political and had no scientific basis.
Immediate former Agriculture permanent secretary Dr Romano Kiome was categorical that the ban was illegal and should be lifted but the government is yet to respond.
Sources say a taskforce appointed by the relevant government agencies to relook at the issue have failed to meet and start work raising concerns the ban may take a little longer.
“I would like to urge the Deputy President William Ruto to give us support as we address biosafety issues raised by the previous cabinet so that the ban on GMOs is reviewed based on expert recommendations,” says Kaimenyi.
Mr Ruto who played a key role in the enactment of the Biosafety Act in 2009 that created the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) is a strong supporter of the technology that he says would ensure the country produced enough food.
In the grand collation government headed by retired President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Mr Ruto first served as the minister for Agriculture before he was moved to the then ministry of Science and Technology.
“As a country, Kenya has opted to embrace modern biotechnology,” he says.
This was essential for the purposes of, among others, maximizing productivity in agriculture and industry, protecting the environment, conserving biodiversity, bio-prospecting and generally improving the quality of human welfare.”
The Deputy President says to achieve that, Kenya is required to effectively implement internationally recognized legal and regulatory framework to ensure biosafety.
“The necessary capacity must also be put in place to ensure that appropriate safety measures are taken into account at all stages of biotechnology-related product development, commercialization and trade,” he says.
However, the government is yet to appoint a new board to run the affairs of the authority after the term of former board chaired by Prof Miriam Kinyua expired in April.
NBA chief executive officer Dr Willy Tunoi however says a presidential circular had moved the authority from the ministry of Education, Science and Technology to the ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries had caused the delay.
“The minister has assured me that a new board will be in place within the next two weeks. Meanwhile work at the authority continues,” Dr Tunoi told TF News in an interview.
The conference has attracted participants from Uganda, Tanzania, New Zealand, USA and Zambia.