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9-Misc: Kenyan organic farmers seek information on biotechnology

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SOURCE: CropBiotechUpdate, Kenya
DATE:   Feb 21, 2003

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The Kenya Institute of Organic Farming (KIOF) hosted a workshop at the
Agricultural Information Center/National Agricultural Research
Laboratories of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) on
"Understanding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and Biotechnology in
Kenya". A team from Zimbabwe and the Netherlands facilitated the workshop
which was held on January 29-30, 2003. About 52 participants attended
which included scientists, representatives from various non-government
organizations, farmers, and regulators. A great percentage of the
participants were promoters of organic farming.

The topics included an introduction to biotechnology and genetic
engineering, global and national status of biotechnology, benefits and
concerns of biotechnology, and GMOs in relation to human health,
environment, food security and rural sustainability, among others.

Issues of concern raised during the workshop were:
- Biotechnology information flow to stakeholders and especially to
farmers was slow and one-sided. KIOF and other agencies were asked to
work together to ensure balanced information flow to the farmers. KIOF
offered to take the lead.
- Mechanisms to test food in the supermarkets and also international food
donations are lacking. The action suggested was 'whistle blowing' through
educational programs.
- The need to come out with policy guidelines on biotechnology. Again
KIOF and related agencies were charged with the responsibility of
following up this felt need.
- Need for public sector investment in biotechnology research and
development to avoid research that is donor-driven and to ensure
appropriate application and adoption of the technology.

The participants concluded that a technology like tissue culture should
continue without reservations since it posed no biosafety concerns.
Genetic engineering, on the other hand, should proceed with caution to
obtain its benefits.