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POLICY & REGULATION: Debate on Biosafety Bill hots up in Kenya’s Parliament

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SOURCE: Africa Science News Service, Kenya

AUTHOR: Henry Neondo


DATE:   08.12.2008

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Kenya?s Members of Parliament last week overwhelmingly passed a crucial vote that could pave way for a biosafety law that is eagerly waited for by scientists in the country.

Contributing to the debate in Parliament when debate on the Bill resumed after interruption on November 29, Dr Kilemi Mwiria, an Assistant Minister for Higher education, Science and Technology said the Boisafety Bill provides safety to safeguard Kenyans against the very fears that lots of Kenyans are currently expressing through various forum with regard to issues of biotechnology and hence the Bill is protect against unintended use of genetically modified Organisms, GMOs.

He said Kenya is not an island and added that since GMOs exist and the fact that borders are porous, the law would provide safeguards.

He said biotechnology is meant to assist to do more using less resources given that Kenya?s productive arable land is merely a third of the land mass.

He said the difference between the industrialized countries and the developing ones is the technological gap.

Countries that are more advanced in technology also happen to be advanced economically and in all other sectors.

So until Kenya bridges this gap by taking advantage of technology, it is always going to lag behind the countries that were the first to take advantage of technology.

According to William Ruto, minister for agriculture, Kenya is lagging behind in putting a legal framework in place to facilitate faster and coordinated research activities, especially in the various arms of agriculture and GMO-related fields.

Uganda and Tanzania, said Ruto have already enacted the Biosafety Bill, a crucial requirement of the Cartegena Protocol. Ruto said the benefits arising from the enactment of this Bill are enormous.

It gives this country the opportunity in a comprehensive and coordinated manner to benefit from research.

He said the passing of the Bill would be testimony of confidence law makers have on local expertise ranging from university and research institutions who were involved in its development.

Ruto warned that Kenya being the entry port for a number of countries whose laws do not prohibit use and importation of GMOs is already exposed and desparately needs the Biosafety Law that would provide necessary instruments to ensure that there is passage or use of GMOs in the country.

Opposing the Bill in the Parliamentary debate, Silas Ruteere pointed out in countries where GMO technology is used, such crops are solely used for animal feeds and not for human consumption.

Those Kenyans MPs in support of the Biosafety Bill point out to the fact the country is still begging and imports food to feed her 5 million people who are food insecure whne technologies exist that could boost crop yield per hactares.

But those MPs opposed say Kenya and indeed Africa is food insecure not for lack of GMOs but for lack of proper planning adding that low irrigation, lack of water harvesting coupled with poor infrastructure and effects of climate change is hampering coutnries in the region from ensuring food security of her citizens.



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