Kenya to lift ban on biotech foods

Wednesday August 12 2015

From left Education CS Jacob Kaimenyi, Deputy President William Ruto and Prof Jenesio Kinyamario Board Chairman of the National Biosafety Authority arrive for the opening of the 4th Annual Biosafety Conference at Kenya School of Monetary Studies, Nairobi, on August 12, 2015. PHOTO | DPPS

Education CS Jacob Kaimenyi (2nd left), Deputy President William Ruto (centre) and Prof Jenesio Kinyamario, Board Chairman of the National Biosafety Authority (3rd right), arrive for the opening of the 4th Annual Biosafety Conference at Kenya School of Monetary Studies, Nairobi, on August 12, 2015. PHOTO | DPPS 

By SAMUEL KARANJA
More by this Author

A ban on importing and eating genetically modified food will be lifted in a month or two.

At the same time, Deputy President William Ruto said on Wednesday, genetically modified maize and cotton will soon be cultivated. “Kenya will not be left behind in biotechnology,” he said.

The announcement is likely to spark fierce debate on consumption of biotech foods, which has been resisted by civil society groups who say its safety is not guaranteed.

The Kenya Biodiversity Coalition comprising 60 groups has been most vocal in its resistance, saying the government has not acquired sufficient information proving that the foods are not a danger to public health.

SUPPORT SCIENTISTS

Addressing researchers on Wednesday during the 4th National Biosafety Conference at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies in Nairobi, Mr Ruto said discussions to lift the ban had been concluded and that the government would support scientists in research.

“The government appreciates the great contribution of technology. We are going to lift the ban on genetically modified organisms shortly after the Cabinet makes a final decision,” he said.

“In a month or two, we shall be able to do that,” he said.

He urged scientists to start a vigorous campaign to allay fears among Kenyans over the use of genetically modified foods.

The DP said the National Biosafety Authority had received applications for open field cultivation of genetically modified maize and cotton and was now receiving views from the public on it.

“The ministries concerned with biosafety have agreed that biotechnology is the way to the future as long as we have regulations in place,” he said.

“We cannot be left behind when the world is discussing biotechnology,” said Mr Ruto.

FLAWED STUDY

Researchers and academics have been pressing the government to lift the ban.

The ban was imposed in 2012 after French scientists associated the eating of genetically modified maize with tumours in rats.

Kenya then prohibited the importation and eating of the foods. Subsequent research found the study to be flawed and it was withdrawn.