Recently, there have been a lot of conversations around the GMO debate in the country. This comes after the cabinet approved to lift of the GMO ban. With this move, it is now possible to start importing and farming GMO products in Kenya.
What is GMO?
GMO refers to a Genetics Modified Organism. This is a plant or animal whose genetics are modified using various existing genetic engineering techniques.
GMOs are mostly common in plants. Since its introduction in the 1990s, it has taken over the farming of some key plants such as maize.
The modifications are meant to achieve several objectives and benefits such as
- Higher yield
- Faster growth cycle
- Longer shelf life
- Disease resistance
Kenya and GMO
The GMO debate in Kenya is not new having previously come up in the past administrations. However, any previous attempts to allow GMOs have failed with the ban remaining in place.
Some of the arguments for the lifting of the ban is the persistent drought that has been facing the country this year resulting in to increase in the costs of basic food commodities.
However, there are major concerns that allowing GMOs will open up unfair competition to Kenyan companies by the internationally dominant GMO companies.
There is also the challenge of GMO plants dominating the local ones. A factor that could lead to their extinction through measures such as cross-pollination.
Finally, there have been concerns regarding the health of consumers. Some activists imply uncontrolled use of GMO products could lead to adverse health effects on Kenyans.
GMO use in Africa
The African lessons from those countries that allow GMO use is full of mixed results. Some of the largest GMO-farming countries in Africa include South Africa, Egypt, and Zambia.
In some cases, such as that Zambia, they legalized their use but later banned them due to an increase in cases of cross-pollination.
In other instances, farming GMOs does not lead to an increase in yield production as per the expectations.
Future of GMO use in Kenya
As it stands, the ban on GMO use in the country is no longer in place. An indication that soon, GMO products could start hitting the shelves. Farmers will also start accessing GMO seeds for planting.
Despite all this, there are still a lot of conversations and discussions needed to assure Kenyans of the safety and benefits of using GMO products.