Kenya Small Scale Farmers oppose GMO bill (10/1/2005)

1.Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum Statement on GMOs and the Biosafety Draft Bill
2.Farmers oppose genetically modified foods bill - news article

1.Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum
Monday 20th December 2004

Statement on GMOs and the Biosafety Draft Bill

We, the Kenya Small Scale Farmers' Forum, representing small-scale farmers from 10 districts across Kenya, do wish to declare our objections to the current draft of the Biosafety Bill on Genetically Modified (GM) crops.

We have serious concerns about the impact that GM crops will have on Kenyan agriculture, farmers' livelihoods, food security and health. The Government of Kenya has a responsibility to draft Biosafety Laws that protect all of these. However the draft Bill in its current form does not protect us, in fact it poses a risk.

Our concerns about GM crops include:

*GM seeds are patented, which means that farmers are forbidden to save their seeds for replanting. If seed saving is threatened, Kenya's agriculture is threatened too. Kenya's small-scale farmers will lose their traditional seed saving practices and become dependent on multinational corporations.

*GM crops will decimate the local gene pool and push out local varieties, which have stood the test of time.

*GM crops become ineffective after some years. Pests and weeds develop tolerance to GM crops, which means that they stop working and need more chemicals.

*GM crops may have harmful effects on health. Studies on the effects of GM crops on humans have never been carried out. In Europe, they have had a moratorium on GM crops for five years, because they are not sure about their safety. Why should we accept them if others think that they are dangerous?

We would like the current draft of the Biosafety Bill withdrawn. It is flawed in both process and content. The problems with the Bill include:

*The current draft Biosafety Bill does not allow for objections to releases of GMOs if our livelihoods, food security, incomes and cultural practices are threatened.

*The draft proposes that only objections based on scientific proof of threat to the physical environment or health can be considered. How can we as farmers hope to engage in such a process, even though it is our lives and livelihoods that will be most affected?

*If our crops are contaminated by the introduction of GM seeds into Kenya, the draft Bill makes it extremely difficult for farmers to get compensation, even if they have lost everything.

*The drafters of the Bill appear to ignore the fact that there are risks associated with GM crops, and do not require evidence that they are safe before they can be approved. Instead the draft Bill fails to adopt the precautionary principle and allows for the introduction of GM products on the basis of lack of evidence.

*Issues of Biosafety are to be dealt with by a new National Biosafety Authority, however there is no one on this Authority that will represent the interests of farmers. We propose that small-scale farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk and civil society be allowed to choose a member of the National Biosafety Authority to represent them. The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health should also be represented on the Authority.

*In the current draft Biosafety Bill, the National Biosafety Authority is to rely exclusively on information provided by the Applicant hoping to release a GMO. This is not sufficient, since this allows the GM company to omit or manipulate data. The Authority should seek independent verification of the Applicant’s information.

*The Authority must be capacity built to effectively analyse information and manage risks. Local agencies (such as KEPHIS) that monitor information on the release of GM crops should also be empowered to take action if there are problems.

*When an application for release of a GM crop is made, the Authority should conduct participatory consultations with farmers at local level.

*The approvals process for the introduction of GM products into the country should involve public consultation through more accessible media than the Kenya Gazette, whose readership is limited.

*Out of these concerns, we feel that this Bill should be withdrawn. Any new initiatives must have small-scale farmers included and participating in the drafting of the Biosafety Bill.

There are many risks associated with GM crops, which are very difficult to control. As farmers, we feel that it would be safer to ban them altogether, which is why we support the Motion by Honorable Captain Davies Nakitare to Ban GM crops from Kenya.

2.Farmers oppose genetically modified foods Bill
By Konchora Guracha
East Africa Standard, December 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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