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October 13, 2008

Civil society groups lobby against Kenyan Biosafety Bill

By Elizabeth Mwai

International Civil Society groups have appealed to Kenyan President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to oppose the adoption of the Bio-Safety Bill 2008.

In an open letter, the 53 organisations cautioned the Bill would expose Kenyans to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

They said the Bill did not abide by the precautionary principles, relied on experience in other countries, had flawed regulatory structure and lacked public participation.

"We the undersigned groups representing a broad of range of constituencies from around the world are writing to urge you to oppose the adoption of the Bio-Safety Bill 2008, which is similar to the lapsed Bio Safety Bill 2007,"the published letter stated.

The civil society groups said studies had shown that genetically modified crops posed risks to humans, farm animals, wildlife and the environment. It adds that effects to human health include: higher risks of toxicity, allergencity, antibiotic resistance, immune suppression and cancer. They said the use of GMOs increased the potential for contamination of non-genetically modified crops.

The societies asked the President to consider the experiences of countries like the United States and South Africa that had approved GMOs. They claimed lax regulation and an automated bias towards approving new GMOs had not served US and South Africa society well.

They alleged that failure of the US regulatory system saw widespread contamination of rice supply with an unapproved GM variety.

"Kenya has an opportunity not to repeat the mistakes made by the US and South Africa when it comes to regulating this technology," the letter said.

The Standard

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