Friday, January 29, 2016
Finally, our neighbour, Kenya, is set to lift the ban on imports of genetically modified (GM) food crops by the end of this month, according to Bioscience for Farmers in Africa newsletter (January 13, 2016). The country banned GM crops in November 2012 citing fears that they were a danger to health.
Kenya depends heavily on maize for food with an estimated annual consumption of 103 kilogrammes of maize per citizen. However, in 2011, prior to the ban, there was an outbreak of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease, which threatened to wipe out entire crops
Climate change also weighed in, causing long droughts that made it difficult for farmers to produce enough maize to feed the growing population. Yet, these were problems that could be overcome by application of GM technologies, which are set to come with the eventual lifting of the ban. “We recommend lifting the ban. We now have border control, surveillance and a strong regulatory system,” said Willy Tonui, the chief executive, National Biosafety Authority.
Due to the delay to enact a law on biotechnology and biosafety, Uganda continues to face difficulties in agricultural production that could be overcome by use of modern biotechnology. For more than 10 years, our scientists at National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) have been funded to conduct biotechnological research to overcome pests and diseases that threaten major food crops like bananas, cassava and maize. However, their discoveries cannot be applied because our Parliament is taking its time to pass the regulatory law.
The hesitation to accept GM technology in most countries is premised on the fear that it poses a danger to health and the environment. However, several respected authorities on public health or science such as— World Health Organisation, the American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences, and American Association for the Advancement of Science have declared that there is no good evidence that GMOs are unsafe.