Decision on biotech maize set for July


A farmer checking her maize crops. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenyans will in the next two months know whether the country will be allowed to plant Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).

Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga says the decision on the biotech maize, which was stopped by then Health Secretary Cleopa Mailu in 2017, will be known by July.

The release of biotech maize had been set for August 2016 where it was to undergo National Performance Trials (NPTs) before being commercialised.

“Kenyans will know the decision on whether to allow or not to allow GMO maize in the country in the next two months,” said Prof Boga last week.

Prof Boga said the only way that the country can be food secure is by adopting useful technology that can boost production, wondering why the debate on the safety of biotech crops have taken long since 2000 .

The PS argued that the recent weather changes and emergence of pests and diseases can be contained by embracing biotech crops.

National Biosafety Authority chief executive officer Dorington Ogoyi said as a regulator, they are working to ensure that the crops are safe for humans and dismissed allegations that GMO causes cancer.

“Our work as a regulator is to ensure the safety of consumers and we cannot approve something that is harmful,” said Prof Ogoyi. The trials, which were expected to take two years, were to be conducted nationwide at the Kephis confined fields and inspected by other government agencies.

During the field trials, Kephis was to compare the conventional seed varieties with the genetically-modified ones with a view to determining changes in nutritional composition, yield performance and pest tolerance.

Kenya imposed a ban on GMO crops in November, 2012, citing danger to public health, a decision that locked out many countries, including South Africa, from exporting maize to Kenya.

The taskforce formed to establish the safety of GMO crops following the ban, 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.

The author of the Seralini report is expected in the country next month where he will be hosted by the anti-GMO crusaders.