The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) has said that mass media, whether print, online, radio or Television, are key to constructive dialogue and demystifying misconceptions about agricultural biotechnology.
The Forum expressed that media platforms can promote the exchange of ideas on modern biotechnology through responsible, professional, ethical, and effective reporting.
Speaking at an award ceremony for journalists on Biotechnology agriculture development on Sunday, the Chairperson of OFAB-Kenya, and director The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application (ISAAA) Dr Margaret Karembu hailed the Government’s decision to lift the ban on all Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) early this month.
“This is a big win for science and technology, and in our quest to address the vicious challenge of food insecurity in our society,” said Karembu.
The Chair said that OFAB takes great pride in a decision that will boost efforts towards the adoption of improved climate-smart crops and have the potential to build a food-sufficient nation empowering citizens, the majority of whom are smallholder farmers.
“Kenya’s media have made an invaluable contribution to the growth of agricultural biotechnology in the country by making the subject a public agenda item,” said Karembu.
The chair noted that it is unfortunate that some anti-GMO crusaders have clouded this debate with misinformation, propaganda and unfounded myths which serve to instill public fear and mistrust about biotech crops.
“Thankfully certain sections of the media have critically sensitised the Kenyan public on crop biotechnology hence stimulating dialogue on its effective utilisation. I laud our journalists for countering misinformation and disseminating only the facts on agricultural biotechnology,” said Karembu.
At the same time, ISAAA Chair and Villgro Africa Co-Founder Dr.Robert Karanja said that following the misinformation and misconceptions floated over the past one and a half weeks, factual information and transparent communication are essential to allow for constructive dialogue, public understanding and supporting coherent, evidence-based decision-making.
“Today we celebrate journalists who have walked with us over the years and embodied exemplary journalism that exhibits best practices in credible science reporting,” said Karanja.
He further stated that Agricultural biotechnology advances are reshaping agriculture and improving food security in many parts of the world, therefore the role that the media plays in the adoption of such technologies is critical.
“We and the media are fighting a war for our farmers and for the country, the gains contributed by biotech crops globally have amounted to approximately Sh 25 trillion Kenya, more Kenyans need to me made aware of such facts,” Karanja said.
“It is for this reason we gather here to celebrate and reward journalists who have contributed to reporting on sustainable agricultural technologies,” he added.
By Mike Mulinge and Isaac Kobonyo