Farmers demand the shelving of Bio-safety Bill (9/8/2007)

GM Watch comment: This article's mostly biotech baloney apart from the opening report of farmer opposition. It follows stereotypes fed to it by GM proponents like Simon Gichuki, the head of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute's (Kari) biotechnology centre.

According to the likes of Gichuki, the biosafety bill will help farmers tap the greater agricultural efficiency of GM crops, leading to higher yields and improved crop resistance to pests and diseases, and enhancing food security.

All of this. though, is based on religious zeal - either that or vested interest! - rather than empirical reality. Kari has been testing GM crops for years and to date not one GM crop has emerged that delivers any of what's claimed.

Indeed, the only GM crop on which Kari's trials have been completed - the Monsanto-originated GM sweet potato project, not only failed to deliver on the promises, but actually gave lower yields in some cases and no viral resistance. Meanwhile in Uganda, conventional breeding produced a high-yielding virus-resistant sweet potato more quickly and at a fraction of the cost. (New Scientist - Monsanto's showcase project in Africa fails)


Farmers demand the shelving of Bio-safety Bill
Written by Zeddy Sambu
Business Daily, 19 August 2007

Farmers are protesting the introduction of a new law that will allow mass production of genetically modified crops and animals.

The farmers want the Bio-safety Bill, which is set for debate in Parliament shelved until its impact on agricultural production costs is assessed.

Despite detailed consultations that led to the publishing of the Bill, the farmers say their views were largely ignored.

Industry experts say the Bio-safety law move will bring more efficiency in agricultural production as a source of food and income generation. The Bill, if enacted, will see the establishment of a Bio-safety authority.

"It will give an internationally recognised Bio-safety framework within which to tap the enormous benefits of biotechnology," said Mr Simon Gichuki, head of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute's (Kari) bio technology centre.

Biotech solutions lead to higher yields and improved crop resistance to pests and diseases, enhancing food security.

According to Kari, diseases and abiotic factors such as drought, soil pH and poor plant and animal genotypes hamper profitable agricultural production in the country. Biotechnology programmes offer real opportunities to overcome them.

Kenya is one of the eight demonstration countries implementing their National Biosafety Frameworks (NBF) under a United Nations Environment Programme fund.

Being one of the African countries with a high level of scientific capacity in biotechnology, commercial use of the products that have already been developed will be made possible by the new law.

The bill was approved last September by the cabinet together with a Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy. Despite lack of a legal framework, Kenya has in recent years applied an interim system for use and handling of biotechnology products.

To date, five approvals for research and development and six others for confined field-testing have been granted under the auspices of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. Most investments in biotechnology in Kenya have been in the field of agriculture.

The debate on agricultural biotechnology in many African countries pit proponents who see it as a panacea to low yields against critics expressing attendant human health and environmental concerns.

"The proponents point to the successes of the technology in the USA while the opponents look to the crises that have been witnessed in Europe," says Prof Patricia Kameri Mbote, an associate professor of law at the University of Nairobi.

In Kenya, biotechnology development is taking place within the context of policies governing agriculture, health, trade and environment. One big obstacle, however, is conservative consumer preference especially in the area of food.

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