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9-Misc: Kenya doing well in genetic research, new study shows

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TITLE:  Kenya Doing Well in Genetic Research, New Study Shows
SOURCE: The Nation, Kenya, by Jeff Otieno
DATE:   Jul 15, 2003

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Kenya Doing Well in Genetic Research, New Study Shows

Kenya is ranked third in genetic engineering research in Africa, behind
South Africa and Egypt.

The three countries are the most advanced in biotechnology, according to
a new research on the status of genetic engineering in Kenya.

Ms Lucy Mathenge, one of the researchers, said Kenya was advanced in
biophysical engineering, which involved fermentation, and tissue culture
used to develop hybrid plants.

The technology, through which genes from one organism to another are
transferred, has met stiff opposition in Europe and Africa.

Speaking at a seminar on biotechnology in a Nairobi hotel, Ms Mathenge
said Kenya could not handle genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

"It is currently hard to deal with GMOs because laws that regulate the
organisms are still being formulated and have not been put in place," the
researcher said.

There was a chance that Kenyans were consuming GMOs coming into the
country in form of food aid.

"We receive so much food aid from America and we might just be consuming
GMOs because the products are not labelled," she said, and named some of
the common foods received from America, the world leading producer of
GMOs, as maize and soya beans.

Kenya had no statistics on the type of food aid received from rich
countries, she said.

Mr Henk Hobbelink, of Grain, an environmental organisation, said despite
the variety of foods available, biotechnology companies concentrated on
canola, cotton, soya beans and maize, whose leading producers were the
US, Canada, Argentina and China.

"Most of them serve the export market and animal feed industry and they
do not focus on improving food security in poor countries," he said.

Participants urged African governments to be cautious on GMOs saying the
risks associated with them had not been addressed.

They asked Kenya to be wary of organisations advocating the acceptance of
genetically manipulated products.

Mr Ngugi Mutura of the Sustainable Agriculture Community Development
Programme said food problems in developing countries were complicated
than the issue of production.

"Production is not always the problem, poor infrastructure and
distribution systems has accounted to hunger," said Mr Mutura.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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