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June 27, 2011

Is Kenya ready for genetically modified food?

by Obrien Kimani

Over the past month, around 6 Kenyan milling companies have closed shop due to the inavailability of maize

Is Kenya ready for genetically modified food? And for how long can the country live on the other side of the fence without transgenic foods?

The focus is now shifting towards this direction as deteriorating weather patterns in Kenya coupled with archaic and expensive farming methods renders Kenya a food deficient state.

Though the country has a law governing the handling of GM crops, it is waiting to be effected by the national bio-safety authority.

The latest debate is driven by cereal millers who are pressing the government to allow the importation of bio-tech maize to deal with the current shortage.

Despite strong resistance by environmentalist the cultivation of genetically modified plants increased globally in 2009 by nine million hectares to a total of 134 million. Land under transgenic crops was expanding the fastest in Africa according to a report.

Data released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application (ISAAA) shows that in South Africa, increased acreage under GMO food to 2.3 million hectares in the 2010/11 season from 2.16 million hectares in the preceding season.

Though Kenya has a bio safety law, no major progress has been achieved since the guidelines on how to handle the crop is still being developed by a steering committee.

Last year there was a huge controversy after it was reported that a ship load of GMO maize was awaiting clearance at the port of Mombasa. The shipment was reported to come from South Africa, the continent's biggest producer of bio-tech maize.


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