Kenyan farmers outraged by push to introduce GM (20/12/2004)

Kenya has been developed as a biotech industry bridgehead, having been targeted consistently by the biotech corporations and USAID since the days of the corrupt Moi adminstration. It has also become a centre for aggressive lobbying, aimed both at other countries in Africa and at generating positive PR for the global stage. But just how little popular support this big push for GM has is becoming increasingly apparent.

Farmers oppose genetically modified foods Bill
By Konchora Guracha
The Standard, Dec 20, 2004

Farmers across the country yesterday expressed outrage over a Government Bill seeking to introduce genetically modified crops.

Representatives from 10 districts said they would support a Private Members’ Motion seeking to outlaw GM crops instead.

The impact of GM food on the country’s agriculture, farmers’ livelihood, food security and human health," said the representatives of the Kenya Small-Scale Farmers’ Forum, is a matter of serious concern.

Speaking at a press conference in Nairobi, the farmers warned that patents on GM seeds alone threatened the future of agriculture, given that most small-scale farmers usually store their seeds for up to three years.

Although genetic engineering and its products have been in use in the country, it has notably gone on unregulated by specific legal statutes.

This is what the new Biosafety Bill on GMOs seeks to address.

It is expected to be tabled in Parliament next year.

But even before then, Saboti Member of Parliament Davies Nakitare has filed a motion seeking a ban on GM crops in Kenya.

Opposition to the controversial technology has intensified in various public forums, consumer groups and researchers.

In addition, GM crops, the farmers said, would endanger indigenous gene pools and may even eliminate local varieties.

Pests and weeds, they said, have been proved to develop tolerance to GM crops.

The Biosafety Bill, the farmers submitted, had no provisions for objections nor for compensation in case something went wrong with the GM crops.

Other critics say the Bill ignores inherent risks associated with GM foods, especially those affecting the environment and human health.

The farmers are also calling for the inclusion of farmers’ representatives as well as representatives from the ministries of Agriculture and Health into the National Biosafety Authority, a body that oversees safety and risk issues.

"Local agencies such as the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service should also be empowered to take action if there are problems," they said.

Until this and other outstanding issues are adequately addressed, they said, the Bill should be withdrawn.


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