Protect Kenyan exports from GMO controversy

GMO maize

State to appeal court ruling stopping GMO importation. PHOTO | POOL

The government will have to take stock of the full implications of the new policy to allow the growing and importation of genetically modified organisms (GMO) crops.

The lifting of the ban was done to alleviate high food prices as the main objective.

But it is never that simple and beyond local opposition to the policy, it is now emerging that the use of GMO is also rocking the country’s international trade.

Horticulture producers say that following the announcement of the adoption of GMO, their European customers are demanding additional certification to confirm that the commodities are free of the technological enhancements.

This has added costs and introduced another source of uncertainty in the business which earns Kenya more than Sh100 billion per annum.

Many customers in Europe, for instance, are averse to genetically modified flowers. Kenya authorities last year stopped growing such flowers in acknowledgement of this fact.

Horticulture producers say there is a lot of confusion surrounding the GMO issue. Clearly, there needs to be a comprehensive understanding of all the unintended consequences of adoption of the agricultural technology in trade and other areas.

This will help in weighing the benefits of the policy change against the fallout, economic or otherwise.

As a minimum, the government and stakeholders need to find if it is possible to ring-fence the country’s key export commodities from the GMO controversy.

Among other things, it will be important to articulate the details of Kenya’s GMO adoption.