|Kenya stops research on GM maize (28/8/2005)|
Comment from Kenyan campaigning group below the article.
Govt stops research on maize
The Government has terminated the Genetically Modified (GM) maize experiments recently launched by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) and an American firm, Sygenta, and ordered the crop destroyed.
The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service(Kephis) will supervise the destruction.
The the first ever field experiments on GM maize in the country, was started in May at a Kari field station in Kiboko, Machakos. They were initially hailed as a major break-through in resolving the challenges stem borer pests present to farmers.
At the same time, local bio-technology researchers have been cautioned against succumbing to pressure from international organisations at the expense of standards and safety.
The newly appointed Agriculture secretary, Dr Wilson Songa, said there was a tendency by local scientists to yield to pressure and sidestep existing regulations in spite of the absence of any legal framework to mitigate possible negative consequences.
"The fact that we don't have an enabling legal framework to fall back on should anything nasty happen, should be reason enough for us to be extra vigilant in biosafety. Unfortunately, there is an emerging tendency by our scientists yielding to pressure from international collaborators pushing to secure approvals for their research projects faster, sidestepping procedures" Dr Songa said.
Dr Songa, who is the chairman of the National Biosafety Committee of the National Council of Science and Technology, was commenting on last month's termination of the stem-borer resistant maize experiments.
He cited failure by the transformed maize (Bt maize) researchers to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the biosafety glass house where the maize seeds were grown. The planting of the seeds in the glass house at the National Agricultural Laboratories in Kabete was launched by President Kibaki in May last year.
"We don't have a baseline data on the impact of the maize on non-target plants and insects. This was a major omission as supervisors in the field have nothing to rely on. They shouldn't have gone to the field without some baseline study on the environment. Our scientists should be lobbying for the pending Biosafety Bill to be fast tracked into law. Instead, they are rushing projects in the field that can have serious consequences in case something went wrong, while we have no framework for redress," Dr Songa said.
The Kiboko experiments were terminated after a technician sprayed the trial maize crop with a restricted chemical, Furadan, and which also acts on stem borers which meant it could no longer be possible to tell if it was the Bt maize or the chemical that would influence results being examined.
The Kari director, Dr Romano Kiome, could not be reached for comment by Friday but was expected back in the office next week.
Subject: Right steps ahead in Kenya - Govt stops research on GM maize
With the newly appointed Agriculture secretary, Dr Wilson Songa, who also is the chairman of the National Biosafety Committee of the National Council of Science and Technology, in Kenya there is light ahead in the deep dark tunnels and dungeons of corporate masterminding by the GM lobby. Also NEMA, the National Environment Management Authority, the body who has to ensure and oversee that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are carried out prior to any permission, is actually a body, which still has a hard core of honest civil servants. While often such obstacles were created in the past only to increase the kickbacks from the corporate players, this time around there is a new spirit of consciousness and responsibility in Kenya emerging.
The task ahead is to change the present draft Biosafety bill, written by the lawyers of the GM lobby, into legislation, which can serve as a role model for Africa, protecting its traditional crops, natural species and most importantly the health and well-being of its people. Immediate action is required to inform the public comprehensively, which other genetically engineered (GE) crops are already in the open and on the market (e.g. tomatoes, papaya etc.).
It is high time to isolate the GE lobby and their Sorcerer's Apprentices together with their corporate money masters and their makings and to put them all into secure confinement from where they only shall be released once measures are in place to secure that the precautionary principle is fully observed and any move is 100% controlled by independent and honest scientists acting on behalf of the people and within a framework, which secures their fully informed prior consent and respect of their will.
The vast majority of Kenyan farmers stands like one wo/man against GE crops.