1.GM CROPS IN KENYA 2004 - REVIEW OF THE YEAR
2.KENYA'S BUMPER CROP OF LOBBYISTS
1.GM CROPS IN KENYA 2004 - REVIEW OF THE YEAR
In 2004, suspicions that the GM industry is targeting Kenya as the doorway to East Africa, were confirmed beyond doubt. Several pro-GM lobby groups based in Nairobi (see item 2 below) have been attempting to influence policy in favour of GMOs. In response, a coalition of NGOs has emerged, calling itself Kenya GMO Concern (KEGCO) to open the dialogue and raise awareness about the risks of GMOs.
GM SWEET POTATO HOAX
In January 2004, one of the GM industry's showcase crops for Africa was shown to be a hoax. The GM virus-resistant sweet potato was developed by Monsanto, brought to Kenya by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), and widely promoted as a solution to Africa's hunger needs by Dr Florence Wambugu. Field trials showed that the GM sweet potato was less resistant to virus than conventional sweet potato, and produced lower yields.
Dr Wambugu was shown to have provided misleading information about the potential of GM to the world's media, and to have produced a crop that was irrelevant to Africa's needs.
Consumers International recently honoured Gatonye Gathura, the Kenyan journalist from the "Nation" newspaper, with the Kalam Award 2004, for his role in blowing the whistle on the GM sweet potato hoax.
INSEVT RESISTANT MAIZE FOR AFRICA (IRMA) AND THE BIOSAFETY GREENHOUSE
In June, Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki opened the KARI Biosafety Greenhouse, and gave a speech indicating the government's support for GM technology.
The Biosafety Greenhouse has been built to develop the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) project. This project is designed to bring Bt maize to Africa as a solution to the stem borer pest, and is being done by KARI in conjunction with the International Centre for Maize and Wheat Research (CIMMYT) and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.
However, few Kenyan or African farmers would identify the stem borer as a major pest or threat to food security, so why millions of dollars are being ploughed into this project is a mystery. Especially since there are cheap and easy methods of dealing with the stem borer that are widely available to the small farmer.
In December, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and IRMA scientists conducted a review of the regulatory requirements and practices of the IRMA project. They concluded that "Regulatory issues were not exhaustively covered in the original project plan," and have placed more stringent regulatory measures on the project for the future. This has set the project back by 2 years, meaning that the GM maize is not expected to be released for commercial sale until 2010.
Unfortunately, however, the IRMA project plans to go ahead with its field trials for Bt maize. At this point, (early January 2005) KARI have given approval for field trials, and the project awaits approval from the National Biosafety Committee, which may be awarded soon.
SMALL SCALE FARMERS PROTEST AGAINST GMOS
In August, farmer leaders from the Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum (KESSFF) clearly declared their objections to GM crops. Of particular concern to small-scale farmers are the fact that GM seeds are patented, meaning that farmers are forbidden from carrying out their traditional practices of seed saving. The farmers also expressed their concerns about the risks of contamination of local seed diversity.
DRAFT BIOSAFETY BILL
The National Biosafety Committee is undertaking the drafting of Biosafety Laws for Kenya. In September, a number of Kenyan NGOs heavily criticised the draft Bill in both content and process. "This draft Bill seems to be more of a mechanism to facilitate and approve GMOs, rather than regulate them
the Kenyan draft Bill does not even conform to the minimum standards recommended under the international UN Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety," the NGOs said in a press release.
In December, the Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum also expressed their concerns about the draft Biosafety Bill. According to KESSFF, the draft Bill barely acknowledges the potential risks of GM crops. It provides little opportunity for farmers or the public to object to GM plantings, or for farmers whose livelihoods are ruined by GM contamination to win compensation.
MOTION TO BAN GMOS IN KENYA
In December, Davies Nakitare, MP for Saiboti, a maize-growing area in Western Kenya, proposed a parliamentary motion to ban GMOs in Kenya. Nakitare cited GM bans in Europe and Japan, the uncertainty surrounding the safety of GM foods, and the risks of handing control of the food chain to Trans National Corporations, as strong reasons for Kenya to ban GM products. The motion will go for its second reading, and will be voted on, after Parliament returns in March.
2.SOME OF KENYA'S BUMPER CROP OF LOBBYISTS
for links to more detailed profiles see:
*Africa Harvest Biotechnology Foundation International - AHBFI
Kenya based lobby group targeting Africa and projecting strong support for GM crops in Africa to the outside world. Chief Executive: Florence Wambugu. Has office in Washington DC. AHBFI is supported by CropLife International - an organisation led by companies such as BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta.
*African Agricultural Technology Foundation - AATF
Kenya based initiative to help transfer GM crops into the African market place. It has the formal endorsement of the US as well as backing from USAID, DfID, Rockefeller, Monsanto, Dupont, Dow and Syngenta. The projects it is working with include the Syngenta Foundation's Insect Resistant Maize for Africa.
*African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum - ABSF
Kenya based intiative spun off by the industry-backed ISAAA under its then director Florence Wambugu
*ISAAA - International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications
ISAAA is a U.S.-centered, GM promotion and 'technology transfer' agency. Its Kenya-based AfriCenter was originally headed by Florence Wambugu who went on to establish her own biotech advocacy outfit - African Harvest Biotechnology Foundation International (see above). ISAAA has also spun off a number of other pro-GM NGOs, like the African Biotechnology Stakeholders' Forum. It also served as model for the more recent AATF - see above. ISAAA has multi-million dollar funding by Bayer, Cargill, Dow, Monsanto, Novartis, Pioneer, and Syngenta, in addition to foundations and Western governmental funding agencies. Board of Directors has contained leading biotech industry executives.
An offshoot of the world's largest biotech corporation which aims to provide GM crops to resource poor farmers. Its main project is Insect Resistant Maize for Africa - IRMA - a showcase project aimed at Kenya. Executive Director: Andrew Bennet.
Chief Executive of African Harvest Biotechnology Foundation International (AHFBI). Kenyan scientist trained by Monsanto for its GM sweet potato project. Post-Monsanto Wambugu became the first Directo
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