World reap from Biotechnology, Africa excluded


Following an appeal by President Kibaki for food aid this week from around the globe, Biotechnology stakeholders forum in Kenya fear that the country could be opening the door for Genetically Modified foods.

However, Dr Kedera Chagema, the Director of Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) said that should the situation arise, KEPHIS would stick to the rules and bar such an occurrence.

Speaking at the launch of the 10th Global Status of Commercialized Biotechnology/Genetically Modified crops for 2005 in Nairobi yesterday, Kedera said that Kenya is a signatory to Cartegena Protocol and expects any country intending to bring in GM food aid at times such as this to declare so in advance and such declaration be from an internationally recognized certification agency.

Scientists feared that Kenya could face what Zambia underwent through some three years ago. Then Zambia’s appeal for food saw US donating GM food rousing the concerns of the scientists and civil society organisations who advised the government to reject the offer.
Dr Kedera however said that should such a scenario arise, wider consultations would have to be made on the basis of moral issue as of whether to stick to rules or allow in food that would help avert loss of life due to famine.

According to the global report on GM crop adoption, USA, Argentina, Brazil, Canada and China topped as countries with over 50, 000 hectares of land under GM crops with Bt cotton, maize, Soybean, Rice being the crops of choice.

In Africa, only South Africa was ranked, coming out in number eight globally with 0.5 million hectares under GM crops.

The report compiled by Dr Clive James, chair of the board of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotechnology Applications (ISAAA) showed that the global area of approved biotech crops in 2005 was 90 million hectares which was an increase from 81 million hectares compared to the previous year.

In Kenya however, a lack of regulatory policy and laws governing biosafety still stands in the way for adoption of GM crops in farmlands.

According to Dr Kedera, the country is still at the experimental stage on the science of biotechnology while an enabling policy is still being pursued by the biotechnology stakeholder forum.

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