Health, Agriculture ministries resolve GMO maize standoff


Livestock principal secretary Harry Kimtai. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya has moved one step closer to commercialisation of genetically modified organism (GMO) maize after the Health and Agriculture ministry resolved a long-standing hurdle that saw the planned rollout in 2016 stopped.

Agriculture and Livestock PS Harry Kimtai said the two ministries had addressed the sticky issue of GMO safety and have prepared a Cabinet memo that awaits the approval by the Executive.

He said the last meeting between different State agencies early this month streamlined the safety issues about the GMO crop.

“The ministries of Health and Agriculture have now prepared a memo for approval by the Cabinet and I can assure you that this will be done,” said Mr Kimtai.

In 2016, the Ministry of Health turned down the request by scientists to roll out GMO maize in Kenya, citing health concerns.

The PS said scientists had done all the required tests and found it to be safe.

“We have done a lot of research under the controlled environment before the release and science has proved that it is safe,” he said.

Mr Kimtai said there are great benefits that Kenya can derive from GMOs, pointing out that other crops such as GMO cassava are now in the pipeline after the confined field trials were approved last year.

Kenya in June 2021 approved the release of genetically modified cassava for open cultivation, paving the way for commercialisation after five years of research.

The National Biosafety Authority gave a green light for open field farming of cassava after years of trials, giving hopes to scientists that the GMO maize nod would be next on the line.

There have been concerns from anti-GMO activists over the adoption of biotechnology crops in Kenya, who have questioned the safety of these crops and preparedness to handle them.

A task force formed to establish the safety of GMO crops following the ban in 2012 and influenced by a scientific journal by Seralini that linked GMO crops to cancer, recommended the lifting of the prohibition on a case-by-case basis.

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