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July 13, 2011

Kenyan minister denies GM maize imports cleared

by Walter Menya and Denis Odunga

The Kenyan government has denied that genetically modified food has been cleared for importation into the country.

However, Public Health minister Beth Mugo...said “From the outset, I wish to state that up to now, we are not aware of any GMO food that has been cleared for importation into Kenya. Officially, we are not aware of the presence of GM maize in the country. However, we cannot rule it out completely because we understand what sometimes goes on at the port of Mombasa.''

The minister’s disclosure came amid media reports indicated that a ship with more than 8,000 tonnes of maize had docked at the port of Mombasa. According to the minister, no miller had approached the ministry or the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) for a permit to import GM maize.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services MD James Onsando also said that no GM maize had been imported.

“The maize that is coming in now is from either Malawi or Zambia and is non-GMO but we will take extra precaution if it is a consignment from South Africa. If it is from South Africa then it must obtain clearance from the National Biosafety Authority before we allow it in,” said Onsando.

Such a request for importation of GM food takes between 90 and 150 days to get the approval of NBA, according to the biosafety law.

At the same time, the NBA has confirmed that there was no GM product approved for consumption in the country. “We also assure Kenyans that any approved GMO will be clearly labelled to allow individuals to make informed choices,” it said.

The assurance comes as biotechnology scholars appealed to Kenyans to shun those inciting them against GM products without valid explanations.

University of Nairobi’s Centre for Biotechnology director James Ochanda urged Kenyans to support scientifically proven arguments to address the biting food insecurity.

The Nation

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