GENET archive


2-Regulation: Biosafety bill endangers Kenya

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

SOURCE: ITDG, PELUM, ECOTERRA Intl, Action Aid, all Kenya
DATE:   2 Sep 2004

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Draft Biosafty Bill Will not Protect Kenya from the Risks of GMOS

Kenya's draft Bill on Biosafety is flawed, and does not do enough to
protect Kenyan agriculture, people and environment from the potential
risks of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), said a coalition of
farmers groups, environmentalists, and development NGOs today.

Parliament is due to debate the Biosafety draft Bill that is supposed to
regulate the import of GMOs and provide protection for Kenyans. GMOs are
organisms (for example crops such as maize) that have been genetically
engineered with genes transferred from different species (such as
bacteria) to confer new traits (such as resistance to stem borer pests).
Farmers' groups, environmentalists and NGOs are concerned that these new
organisms, which are patented, will contaminate Kenyan seeds and pose a
risk to farming livelihoods, the environment, and human and animal health.

The groups were responding to the National Council of Science and
Technology's announcement last week that the Bill has been developed and
has been forwarded to Parliament awaiting approval.

"A Biosafety Bill should provide protection to Kenyans and the
environment, and ensure that the future of Kenya's agriculture and
farmers is not compromised." Said Moses Shaha, chairman of Kenya Small
Scale Farmers' Forum (KESSFF). "There are many possible risks from the
widespread use of GMOs, and any Bill must seek to minimise the likelihood
of these risks."

Eric Kisiangani of Intermediate Technology Development Group - East
Africa (ITDG-EA) added, "Kenya's Biosafety Bill needs to be rigorous and
should have strong safety standards to regulate any import, growth and
use of GMOs. However this draft Bill seems to be more of a mechanism to
facilitate and approve GMOs, rather than to regulate them."

"Neither the Kenyan people nor civil society or environmental groups have
been consulted in the drafting of the Biosafety Bill." Said Oduor Ong'wen
of Southern and East Africa Trade Information Network Initiative
(SEATINI). "Perhaps that is why the Kenyan draft Bill does not even
conform to the minimum standards recommended under the international UN
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, as shown by legal experts affiliated to
the African Union."

"There are better and cheaper options than GMOs for tackling the problems
faced by Kenyan farmers, which do not jeopardize Kenyan interests or
endanger our people and nature." Pointed out Thari Kulissa of ECOTERRA
Intl. "For example, the International Centre for Insect Physiology and
Ecology (ICIPE), has shown how intercropping with napier grass and
desmodium can protect against stemborers and weeds, increase soil
fertility and provide fodder for cattle. Why do we need expensive and
risky GMOs when we already have the answers?"

Zachary Makanya of Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM)
added, "Our organisations have come together out of concern that the
Kenyan government is rushing to allow GMOs into our agriculture, without
considering the damaging effects, precautionary measures on how to
prevent them, or means to compensate farmers and consumers who are harmed
by them. The safety of GMOs has not been proven, and we should not just
assume that organisms with genes from completely different species like
bacteria are safe for us to eat or plant. These new organisms must not be
allowed to contaminate our seeds.

"GMO crops are patented, which means that farmers pay higher prices for
seeds, and are forbidden from saving or sharing their seed for the
following season. GMOs therefore have huge potential to harm Kenyan
farmers' livelihoods. The Biosafety Bill must reflect these concerns and
potential dangers. But the current draft fails to do so."


1) This statement has been made by a coalition of farmers groups,
environmentalists and development NGOs, including: Kenya Small Scale
Farmers' Forum (KESSFF), Participatory Ecological Land Use Management
(PELUM), Action Aid, Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG),
ECOTERRA Intl, Bridge Africa, INADES and Southern & Eastern Africa Trade
Information Network Initiative (SEATINI).

2) The National Council of Science and Technology announced on August
25th that the draft Bill had been developed during a workshop in Nakuru.
See East African Standard, "GM Foods Bill Ready, Says Officer" 26th
August 2004

3) The UN Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is an internationally agreed
protocol on the minimum standards and procedures that countries should
implement to ensure prevention of risks from GMOs. It entered into force
on 11 September 2003. Kenya is a signatory.

4) Kenyan farmers are concerned about the effects that GMO crops will
have on their agriculture and indigenous seeds. See "Kenya Small Scale
Farmers' Forum: The Thika Declaration on GMOs" August 20th 2004
And "Farmers Reject GM Food Crops" Kenya Times 25 August 2004

5) For further information on Genetically Modified Organisms and Genetic
Engineering, please visit the FOCUS ON AFRICA link at http://www.gmwatch.or

6) For further information on this statement please contact:
Eric Kisiangani (ITDG) +254-20-271 3540
Zachary Makanya (PELUM) +254-67-31 686
Thari Kulissa (ECOTERRA Intl) +254-20-88 26 58
Action Aid +254-20-444 0 444

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

SOURCE: by Maurice Odhiambo Makoloo, Kenya
        sent by Ecoterra International, Kenya
DATE:   1 Sep 2004

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Wednesday, the 23rd of June 2004 stands to be a historic day of sorts in
this country. This is the day the President officially opened a
greenhouse facility located within the Kenya Agricultural Research
Institute (KARI) reportedly as an official government endorsement of
Genetically Modified Foods in this country. The drums have certainly been
beating for some time being led by the Minister for Agriculture. Coming
from the Head of State, the proponents of the introduction of GMOS in
this country could not have found a better partner. That, however is not
to say that the government has got it right.

Both the Minister's and the President's arguments are that this is
expected to produce better crop yields and thereby fill the country's
food basket. In a country that suffers food shortages, who would argue
with that? Nevertheless, as is often said there are many ways of skinning
a cat! Question is, is the government doing this the right way? My answer
is a big NO. Although the public debate over GMOs has taken place mainly
in the developed countries, the developing countries have an important
stake in the outcome. Many developing countries still depend heavily on
agriculture, so they stand to benefit from any technology that can
increase food production, lower food prices, and improve food quality. In
places where there is often not enough food to go around and where food
prices directly affect the incomes of a large proportion of the
population, the potential productivity gains offered by GMOs cannot
easily be ignored.

But before we go about extolling the virtues of GM Foods, there are
certainly numerous questions that need to be answered. These include:
what is a GMO?, how are GMOs produced?, who produces GMOs?, where are
GMOs currently being grown?, what are the risks associated with GMOs? Are
GMOs appropriate for developing countries? These are but just some of the
questions that need answers before we can begin to salivate at the
prospects of genetically modified foods.

No time was wasted on the day of the launch telling all and sundry of why
we must embrace this new technology. We must hasten to add that
technological change or development is welcome. However, like any change,
technological change must equally be managed. If the potential benefits
of GMOs are disproportionately large in developing countries, so are the
potential costs. Most developing countries lack the scientific capacity
to assess the safety of GMOs, the economic expertise to evaluate their
worth, the regulatory capacity to implement guidelines for safe
deployment, and the legal systems to enforce sanctions and punish
transgressions of the law.

As with any new product, the impacts of GMOs on people, on animals, and
on the environment are difficult to predict, so it is important that the
potential risks be evaluated before GMOs are approved for release. The
evaluation process inevitably will have to include carefully controlled
field testing, since only field testing will generate the information
needed to determine how GMOs will perform in the hands of farmers. But
even this field-testing must be guided by some policy and legal regime.
The President appeared to appreciate this when he reported that the
development of a policy for biotechnology research and the use of the
resultant products was at an advanced stage and further that 'Bills to
support this policy are being prepared for consideration by Parliament".
Clearly, by this statement, it is obvious that we have put the cart
before the horse. For instance, shouldn't the policy first state whether
it is in deed the intention of the government to ravel the route of GMOs
and if so, how to reach there. Under what policy and legal regime then is
the greenhouse built and maintained?

Talking of law, environmental management in this country is presently
done under the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act. This law,
which was enacted in 1999 came into force in 2000. Among its chief
provisions are those on Environmental Impact Assessment for certain
categories of projects. Included in this list is 'major developments in
biotechnology, including the introduction and testing of genetically
modified organisms'. Was an EIA study done? If so, the public is entitled
to know the results. If as is suspected, none was done, then we must be
careful not to break the law in the quest for an alleged 'good'.

It should be remembered that Kenya was the first country in the world to
sign the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety. The backbone of that Protocol
was what is referred to as the Precautionary Principle. This principle,
which is also a key plank of our environmental law dictates that where
there are threats to the environment and there is as yet lack of
scientific certainty, it is best to play safe! It is conceded even by the
proponents of GMOs that presently available scientific information does
not provide full knowledge of the impacts of GMOs. The inevitable
conclusion is that caution is the buzz word. Nay, caution is demanded by
both domestic and international law!

Third, given the importance people place on the food they eat, policies
regarding GMOs will have to be based on an open and honest debate
involving a wide cross-section of society. In hindsight, it is clear that
the agri-biotech industry realized that it miscalculated in arguing that
genetically modified foods are no different from other foods and
therefore did not need to be subject to special treatment or even
distinguished in the marketplace. This attitude merely served to heighten
suspicions among some consumers that the industry is seeking to increase
profits by promoting a technology that has few obvious benefits and may
in fact pose hidden dangers. If it is intended that we change our food
consumption to GM foods, then surely we must have an open debate in which
citizens clearly understand what they are being served. To seek to do it
any other way is to miss the shore by a mile.

Fourth, there is also the question of sustainability. The GM technology
as developed is based on terminator genes. These terminator genes are
designed to ensure that farmers who plant these crops could not replant
them as the seeds are not made to germinate. Thus the technology is
lopsided to ensure total dependence of the farmer on the corporations
producing them. An analogy can be drawn with Information Technology where
the machines are made to use only accessories from selected companies.
The charge that these corporations are profit-motivated has never been
adequately denied. In deed, it would be naļve of anybody to assume that
their actions are motivated with philanthropy. There is evidence that in
North America, acceptance of genetically modified foods is declining. In
Britain, GM foods have never been officially endorsed. We need to ask
ourselves if we are not just offering our country as a laboratory for
experiments that have not been successful elsewhere while simultaneously
offering a ready market for products whose effects have not been
adequately ascertained?

Let this serve as a warning to the government that it is not dealing with
a small matter here.


The writer is an environmental lawyer and a Director with the Institute
for Law and Environmental Governance (ILEG), a not-for-profit
environmental research and advocacy institution based in Nairobi. He may
be reached on +254-(0)20-576722/(0)733-860091; or


first published by ECOTERRA Intl. © 2004

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                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Kenyan minister identifies causes of food insecurity
SOURCE: Panafrican News Agency
DATE:   1 Sep 2004

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Kenyan minister identifies causes of food insecurity

Kenya's minister for agriculture, Kipruto arap Kirwa on Monday admitted
that a poorly performing agricultural was to blame for the current food
insecurity in the country,

Kirwa cited the shortage of arable land due to high population growth
rate, dependence on rain-fed agriculture, declining soil fertility,
inadequate application of farm inputs, pests and diseases as factors
hampering agricultural growth in his country.

To achieve food self-sufficiency, Kirwa stressed the need to procure a
new generation high yielding crop varieties through scientific research.

The minister made the disclosure in a speech read on his behalf by a
senior deputy director of agriculture, John Meli, at a training workshop
on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) held at Nakuru, 157 kilometres
west of Nairobi.

The workshop, organised by the National Council of Science and Technology
(NCST) is sponsored by the United Nation Environment Programme- Global
Environment Facility Project (UNEP-GEF).

Leading scientists from various private and public institutions in the
country are attending the meeting.

To reverse the trend, Kirwa said, Kenya was on the forefront in
developing scientific application such as Biotechnology in order to
address problems facing various sectors of the economy, including agriculture.

He said the government recognised the role played by biotechnology in
poverty reduction, enhancing food security and conservation of
biodiversity and industrial applications.

He however, observed that the Government would only support the
development of safe Biotechnological practises which do not endanger the
lives of its citizens.

The minister called for the formulation of "clear and safe" procedures
and legal frameworks governing all aspects of biotechnology to guide its
application and growth within the country and its outside markets.

"While it is recognised that modern Bio-technology has a potential to
contribute towards improvement of human life, there has been a growing
concern over the adverse effects of the technology on health and
environment", the official said.

Kirwa disclosed that the Kenyan government was in the process of
establishing a National Bio-safety Framework to ensure safe use and
application of GMOs in the country.

He said the new Bio-safety Policy would go along way in helping the
management, development and use of biotechnology in order to protect
humans and the environment from the perceived adverse effects of the

It would also assist in informing the public about new developments in
the world of Biotechnology so that they could make informed choices.

Kirwa said that a new bill which will be tabled


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