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In throes of drought-induced famine, Kenya lifts 10-year-old ban on genetically modified crops

New Delhi: Kenya has lifted a 2012 moratorium that restricted import or open cultivation of genetically modified (GMO) crops. The move represents a major policy shift aimed at making the country more food secure and containing runaway prices.

The new Kenyan cabinet, unveiled last Tuesday by President William Ruto, has approved the farming and import of biotechnology crops, which will open up the country for firms involved in the GMO industry.

The approval comes in the wake of a devastating, three-year long drought that has exposed four million Kenyans to famine. The East African region, known as the Horn of Africa, faced the worst drought in 40 years, with Kenya not receiving rainfall for about three years. 

The approval is meant to allow imports of GMO maize that are readily available in the market at a cheaper cost to help lower the price of flour. 

Kenya had been reluctant to approve the import or planting of genetically modified food crops since November 2012, amid an ongoing debate regarding health concerns. However, several studies say GMO crops are safe, with several advantages such as resistance to drought, pests etc.

The cabinet took inputs from several experts and technical reports including that of Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

“Cabinet vacated its earlier decision of 8th November 2012 prohibiting the open cultivation of genetically modified crops and the importation of food crops and animal feeds produced through biotechnology innovations; effectively lifting the ban on Genetically Modified Crops. By dint of the executive action, open cultivation and importation of White (GMO) Maize is now authorized,” read a cabinet memo. 

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‘Long overdue’

The ban on GMOs was announced by former Health Minister Beth Mugo in 2012 after a journal by French scientist Eric Seralini claimed that these crops had a link to cancer after a mouse that was fed on it developed a cancerous tumour.

The journal was, however, recalled two years later on grounds that it was not conclusive on the matter. 

Speaking to Business Daily Africa, Timothy Njagi, a research fellow with Egerton University-based Tegemeo Institute, said the Kenyan cabinet’s decision was long overdue. “GMO maize is cheaper than the conventional one and once we start importing it will lower the cost of food locally.”

According to the researcher, it will also help bring down the cost of animal feed, which has remained at a historic high for the past three years. The waivers will lead to millers importing materials such as soya.

(Edited by Theres Sudeep)

Also Read: How Modi govt has ‘scuttled’ GM farming in India by moving Bt Brinjal trials to states

Source: The Print

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