MP and don clash over technology

Thursday January 15 2009

By KIBIWOTT KOROSS

A scientist and an MP on Thursday clashed over whether Kenya should adopt genetically modified crops to counter the rising food shortage.

University of Nairobi lecturer Gideon Nyamasyo said the only way Kenya could free herself from the pangs of hunger was to adopt genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“We should open our gates so that Kenyans can benefit,” said Dr Nyamasyo at the launch of the Intellectual Property Initiative project at Norfolk Hotel, Nairobi.

He said Kenyans lacked awareness on the importance of GMOs because the campaign had been driven by a few personal interests.

However, Imenti North MP Silas Muriuki dismissed the lecturer’s suggestions, saying Kenyans would be put at risk if the technology was adopted.

He blamed the food shortage on the Ministry of Agriculture, accusing it of failing to advise farmers on new farming methods. Mr Muriuki said only a few people would benefit if the President signs the Biosafety Bill 2008 into law.

“Only those who are financially able will control the seed sector,” he said.

Some conditions

“The Bill says farmers cannot access these seeds until they fulfil some conditions ... this is rather questionable and those advocating for it should be sincere to tell us what they are up to.”

He said Kenyans should also be wary of side effects of GMOs since the Bill was silent on the issue. Mr Muriuki said President Kibaki should heed the pleas of Kenyans and take the Bill back to MPs for amendment.

The Bill seeks to bring Kenya’s regulatory framework in line with the Catagena Protocol on Biosafety. The aim is to ensure safe transfer, handling and use of GMOs.