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Manufacturers applaud gov’t move to lift ban on GMOs

Feed manufacturers in Kenya have lauded the government’s move to lift the ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Speaking at a press briefing in Nairobi, Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers (AKEFEMA) Secretary General Martin Kinoti acknowledged the move by government saying that the country lost over two decades of scientific progress on matters biotechnology.

“It is evident that the ban constrained bio-innovation, research and entrepreneurship developments in this key frontier of science and knowledge,” he said.

Kinoti added that the scientific community is now talking of genome editing thus Kenya has the requisite capacity to catch up and be the leader and a reference in the region.

The Secretary General noted that the ban on GMOs has continued to cripple the country’s ability to respond promptly to food and feed crisis despite the availability of overwhelming scientific evidence that GMOs are approved by close to 70 governments globally and therefore safe for human and animal consumption.

“The ban on GMOs specifically stifled the feed industry and the livestock sector in many ways. It limited the sources of feed raw materials with serious negative consequences mainly unavailability and high costs leading to loss of jobs and livelihoods due to closure of livestock farms and collapse of about 40 milling industries in the last two years,” said Kinoti.

He explained that with feeds accounting for over 70 percent of the cost of egg production for small scale farmers and 50 percent of the cost of production of milk, an upward change in price of animal feed directly spurs shortage, high cost and unavailability of raw materials making the livestock sector uncompetitive.

The government, he said has a legal policy and institutional framework that governs the use of GMOs through the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), which has the mandate to clear all the agricultural imported goods by ensuring they are of quality and safe.

“In Africa, a total of seven countries, namely South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Malawi, Eswatini and Ghana have approved growing and use of GMOs,” he said.

GMO’s, he noted, have been grown since 1996 therefore it is no longer a new technology and by 2019, 17 million farmers from 29 countries grew 191 million hectares of GM crops and 19 of these countries were developing countries.

He called upon the government both national and county to sensitize the public on the importance of GMOs.

“We urge our government, our scientists, our learning and research institutions and the media to intensify sensitization and public education and forum, so that all of us make decisions from an informed point of view,” said Kinoti.

Kinoti, appealed to the government to adopt the use of biotechnology products such as tested GMO foods and animal consumption and also allow duty free importation of animal feed raw materials which expires at the end of October 2022 to three years.

The Association has also asked the government to remove duty on all animal feeds raw materials and to convene stakeholders’ forum in all parts of the country to share the available information on the use, propagation and consumption of GMOs as well as review the role, use and farming of GMO materials for the exclusive use in the animal feed manufacturing sector.

Ms. Margaret Karembu, the chair of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) Kenya said that GMOs have been grown, traded and consumed by humans and livestock for over 25 years.

She added that most of public universities are teaching about it and its ban has caused a brain drain as Biotechnicians from Kenya normally go and work outside Kenya.

The long-standing ban on GMOs in Kenya has finally been lifted after a 12-year ban marking a historic moment in the country’s agri-biotech development.

The Government through a Cabinet decision lifted the ban to allow efficient adoption of approved biotech crops and importation of GM foods.

By Emmanuel Kipkoech and Edna Okoth

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