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July 13, 2011

More criticism of Kenya for GMO maize imports, jatropha in grazing areas

by Kevin J Kelley

The global environmental advocacy group Greenpeace is strongly criticising Kenyan authorities for approving the import of genetically modified organisms (GMO).

“The decision by the Kenyan government is short-sighted and irresponsible,” said Greenpeace Africa campaign director Olivia Langhoff. “Instead of falling into the GMO trap, the government should invest in ecological farming and support local farmers, especially small-scale farmers in sustainable farming.”

Greenpeace charges that the new law allowing import of GMO maize can lead to seed contamination.

“The negative impacts on agro biodiversity have been well documented,” Ms Langhoff declares. “If maize imports are critical in the immediate term,” she adds, “food supplies should be from sources as close to the areas affected by famines as possible.”

Kenya on July 1 became the fourth African country to permit imports of GMO crops, joining South Africa, Egypt and Burkina Faso. Supporters of the move say it is essential in helping to stabilise prices and to feed millions of hungry Kenyans.

Separately, a US-based food research organisation is warning that Kenya's pastoralists, already beleaguered by the worst drought in 60 years, could see pieces of their grazing land given over to Western corporations for cultivation of biofuels.

Richard Jonasse, a leader of the Institute for Food and Development Policy, cites a report last year that 502,000 hectares in Kenya have been leased for potential production of jatropha (oil seed).

“While jatropha is a drought-tolerant species, this does not mean that it grows on unused land,” Jonasse writes. “Pastoralists use dry marginal lands to feed their stock. Taking away this grazing land would have a tremendous impact on these herders, linking their very existence to volatile commodities markets in the economic capitals of Europe and North America.”

The Nation

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