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July 19, 2011

GM food imports a done deal, but Kenya continues the debate

by Peter Ng'etich and Philomen Suter

A farmers’ lobby group has supported calls for Kenyans to adopt genetically modified crops as residents in drought-hit areas also welcomed the plan to import GM maize.

Cereals Growers Association chief executive officer David Nyameino said the maize was resistant to diseases and harsh weather conditions and would improve production. He said the maize had been grown in many parts of the world to reduce hunger, and wondered why Kenya was locking out the technology.

“Most of the maize imports are from the US and South Africa, which grow 90 and 70 per cent respectively. Why the hullabaloo?” Mr Nyameino posed. He added: “Who has researched on the maize we grow to feed Kenyans to know if it is harmful because it has also been improved with time?”

He said that maize production in the country would double if farmers adopted the technology...the country’s population had risen to 38 million and the 32 million bags realised annually could not meet the demand.... maize was decreasing yearly and technology was the only way to increase production.

The Cabinet last week approved a budget of Sh9 billion to buy food for an estimated 1.3 million Kenyans facing severe food shortage.

“As long as we are hungry, we will welcome the Cabinet move regardless of the controversy surrounding the GM maize,” said Mr Nelson Cheboi, a spokesperson for people who were evicted from Embobut forest.

Although most residents do not have clear information about GM crops, they were not concerned with the outcry from activists and politicians castigating its importation. They praised the Cabinet for approving the importation, saying, it was better to risk eating GM food than starve to death.

In Marakwet East, Pokot North and Pokot Central districts, which are most hit by the food shortage, residents welcomed the Cabinet decision. Pokot North District Commissioner George Onyango said starving residents would welcome anything.

Some MPs...argued GM maize had negative effects.

“We do not want our people to eat GM maize because it has bad effects on their health. We totally are against it,” Mr Kambi said.

Mrs Kilimo urged her constituents not to eat GM maize.

The Nation

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