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POLICY & REGULATION: Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture plans drive to popularise GMOs amid raging debate



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   STATE PLANS DRIVE TO POPULARISE GMOS AMID RAGING DEBATE

SOURCE:  Business Daily, Kenya

AUTHOR:  George Omondi

URL:     http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/State+plans+drive+to+popularise+GMOs+amid+raging+debate/-/539552/1204180/-/gxhlnjz/-/

DATE:    20.07.2011

SUMMARY: "The government is set to popularise genetically modified organisms even as debate on the impact of the food on consumers and the environment rages on. Agriculture permanent secretary Romano Kiome said on Tuesday that public institutions will join hands in educating farmers on benefits of genetic engineering. [...] ?Our scientists must now come forward and prove to the public that GM foods are just like any normal food,? said Agriculture assistant minister Gideon Ndambuki."

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STATE PLANS DRIVE TO POPULARISE GMOS AMID RAGING DEBATE

The government is set to popularise genetically modified organisms (GMOs) even as debate on the impact of the food on consumers and the environment rages on.

Agriculture permanent secretary Romano Kiome said on Tuesday that public institutions will join hands in educating farmers on benefits of genetic engineering.

The institutions include universities, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, and individual crop research entities. Dr Kiome said researchers? failure to explain to farmers how biotechnology has improved national food outlook elsewhere had left them confused by the debate on the safety of GM foods. ?If people are accused of promoting science let?s stand accused,? Dr Kiome said in Nairobi yesterday at the launch of the national seed policy.

He said that it was unwise for a country which values development to lag in science. A law that permits genetic engineering, the National Biosafety Act, was enacted earlier this year.

?Our scientists must now come forward and prove to the public that GM foods are just like any normal food,? said Agriculture assistant minister Gideon Ndambuki.

The National Seed Policy identifies modern biotechnology as one of the pillars of food security. The country has set up the National Biosafety Authority, an agency charged with vetting and licensing importation, production, and exportation of GM materials. However, a recent move by the Cabinet to allow millers to import GM maize as a short term measure to boost grain supply in the face of hunger has elicited sharp reaction from various interest groups. Some politicians have threatened to lead their constituents in boycotting GM food imports. Agriculture minister Sally Kosgei will give a ministerial statement on the country?s preparedness for GM food next week.

?The advice that I get from all these institutions which are funded by taxpayers? money is that the country is ripe for biotechnology,? said Dr Kiome.

On Tuesday, the Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) said GM foods should be banned in Kenya and the EAC region. The group, however, said it would support importation of the GM maize as a stop gap measure to alleviate the plight of those faced with death from starvation. ?If GM maize is the only solution needed to save the lives of those dying from hunger, we have no problem with importation of the same for emergency response,? said Cofek executive officer Edwin Wanjawa.

At a recent media briefing in Nairobi, molecular geneticist Ricarda Steinbrecher said no side effects have been recorded on humans for using GM foods.

Negative outcomes

The concerns, Dr Ricarda said, largely arise from negative outcomes during trials with animals. Among other side effects, feeding trials on animals have shown evidence of inflammation, ulcerations, and excessive growth of the stomach and gut lining.

They have also recorded disturbance of liver, pancreas and kidney function; disturbance of testes function; and alteration in levels of red blood cells.

Most recently, such trials have uncovered altered body weight, allergy, and immune responses in animals.

?As long as the staple food is GM, there is real concern that these documented side effects could soon be seen in humans,? said Dr Steinbrecher.

She said scientists conducting GM research had no control on where the planted gene inserts itself within an already stable system of cells, resulting in random genetic integration.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   OFFICIAL SAYS GM MAIZE WILL BOOST KENYA FOOD SECURITY

SOURCE:  Business Daily, Kenya

AUTHOR:  Peter Ng?etich

URL:     http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Corporate+News/Official+says+GM++maize+will+boost+Kenya+food+security/-/539550/1204200/-/y8k4ohz/-/

DATE:    20.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Speaking during a meeting on climate change agriculture and food security meeting in Nairobi, [agriculture secretary] Dr Songa said traditional methods of maize farming made the country less competitive in food production amid pressure from a rising population. [...] Dr Songa said introduction of GMO food, which is cheaper to produce, would boost food production in arid and semi-arid areas. ?To ensure that Kenyan farmers produce enough food to feed ourselves, the solution must be a radical change to agriculture and GMO is the solution,? Dr Songa said."

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OFFICIAL SAYS GM MAIZE WILL BOOST KENYA FOOD SECURITY

Adopting genetically modified maize will help Kenya to achieve food security, a top government official has said as the debate on the safety of GMOs rages.

Agriculture secretary Wilson Songa said a farm planted with GMO crop can produce as much as 40 to 50 bags of maize. Currently, the production is a maximum of about 30 bags.

Kenya produces about 32 million bags of maize yearly while demand has shot up to about 38 million bags due to rise in population.

The price of the grain has also gone beyond the reach of the majority because of surging cost of production. This has seen a 90kg bag retail at Sh4,500, up from Sh1,200 three years ago.

Speaking during a meeting on climate change agriculture and food security meeting in Nairobi, Dr Songa said traditional methods of maize farming made the country less competitive in food production amid pressure from a rising population. In South Africa, he said, farmers use three to four types of pesticides on a GMO crop while in Kenya farmers use more than 15 before a crop matures.

?The technology is coming, there is no stopping it,? Dr Songa said.

The Agriculture secretary said South Africans have consumed GMO maize for the past 20 years, but there is no proof to show that it had harmed them. ?Before we fully introduce it, it will go through the necessary agro-research analysis by Kenya Agricultural Research Institute,? he said.

At the beginning of the month, the Cabinet approved the importation of GMO maize to end food shortage. The decision was arrived at as Public Health minister Beth Mugo expressed fears that unscrupulous traders could have sneaked in the grain.

Dr Songa said introduction of GMO food, which is cheaper to produce, would boost food production in arid and semi-arid areas.

?To ensure that Kenyan farmers produce enough food to feed ourselves, the solution must be a radical change to agriculture and GMO is the solution,? Dr Songa said.

Crop experts, however, warned that GMOs will affect the health of Kenyans. They urged the Government to go for bio-technology, which they claimed was safer and produces higher yields.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   STATE SHOULD EXPLAIN BENEFITS OF GM FOODS

SOURCE:  Business Daily, Kenya

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Opinion+++Analysis/State+should+explain++benefits+of+GM+foods/-/539548/1204772/-/v3vo9p/-/

DATE:    21.07.2011

SUMMARY: "The government?s resolve to introduce genetically modified foods as a solution to the country?s persistent hunger and rising cost of agricultural production has captured public attention in social media and other forums of interaction. What stands out across the divide is the level of ignorance on what the debate, punctuated by commercial and political interests, is all about in the first place. Available literature, however, suggests that GMOs have been accepted globally as the ultimate solution to solving most of the problems that affect living beings"

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STATE SHOULD EXPLAIN BENEFITS OF GM FOODS

The government?s resolve to introduce genetically modified foods as a solution to the country?s persistent hunger and rising cost of agricultural production has captured public attention in social media and other forums of interaction.

What stands out across the divide is the level of ignorance on what the debate, punctuated by commercial and political interests, is all about in the first place. Available literature, however, suggests that GMOs have been accepted globally as the ultimate solution to solving most of the problems that affect living beings - plants and animals

Through the genetic engineering it is possible to increase crop yields for instance by injecting desirable attributes from another organism, reducing the incidence of disease and use of herbicides. The potential in the farming sector need not be gainsaid with some studies indicating production could rise by as much as 50 per cent, ensuring there is enough to eat and to support industries that feed off the agricultural chain.

At current production levels, GM food production would wipe out the cartels that thrive on commodity imports necessitated by domestic shortfalls. GMOs, in this case, would have the same impact that synthetics have had in the manufacturing sector, helping sustain enterprises that would have shut down because of the finite nature of natural raw materials. Despite the benefits GMOs portend, their novelty has come with predictable concerns over their safety, particularly with regard to human health and the environment. That some of the potential side effects are grotesque highlights the bad job genetic engineers have done in making themselves understood outside their high security laboratories.

Yet these are not perceptions that can be laughed off; rather, they need to be explained logically and existing proof to the contrary adduced. A well funded lobby has to date, even in Europe and America, circumvented scrutiny that would persuade that the genetic scientists are not solely driven by the commercial imperative.

Campaigners against GMOs have for three decades advocated for compulsory labelling, continuous safety testing, water-tight regulation and liability by promoters for damages proven to arise from adoption of modified varieties.

This is a route that Kenya should take but it is unlikely to do so in isolation from the international community. The existing Biosafety Act, however, has safeguards which if enforced would ensure that the benefits of GMOs are not discarded just because of negative perceptions.



                                  PART 4

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TITLE:   WAYS SOUGHT TO EDUCATE FARMERS ON GM BENEFITS

SOURCE:  The Citizen, Tanzania

AUTHOR:  Xinhua, China

URL:     http://thecitizen.co.tz/magazines/-/13192-ways-sought-to-educate-farmers-on-gm-benefits

DATE:    27.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Kenyan scientists have passed their own score card, a ?pass? in their ability to communicate to the public on the implications of the technologies they are developing in the agriculture research laboratories. [...] ?We have failed to communicate as scientists,? said Shaukat Abdulrazak, the chief executive of the National Council for Science and Technology. [...] Abdulrazak told scientists at a forum to launch a plan to raise awareness on biotechnology in Nairobi on Thursday that this should be the last time science community is caught unawares in a debate that it should have helped avoid."

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WAYS SOUGHT TO EDUCATE FARMERS ON GM BENEFITS

Nairobi. Kenyan scientists have passed their own score card, a ?pass? in their ability to communicate to the public on the implications of the technologies they are developing in the agriculture research laboratories. Kenya is among leading African nations in agriculture technology research but to an average Kenyan, the mention of genetically modified (GM) food for example is treated with dislike.

This is despite the fact that most Kenyans wear clothes that have been made using cotton that is grown using GMOs and a sizable number have consumed GM foods bought from supermarket shelves

?We have failed to communicate as scientists,? said Shaukat Abdulrazak, the chief executive of the National Council for Science and Technology. ?We need to end the reaction mode when biotechnology issues come up for debate in this country.?

The problem, he said, is that scientists have not communicated effectively to Kenyans what biotechnology means and what benefits it can bring in their lives as well as its risks. The current debate was ignited by decision by the government to allow import of GM maize from South Africa to meet the current maize deficit in the country. Maize is Kenya?s staple food.

Environmental activists have taken a field day with protests and media events to denounce the GMOs while politicians seeking populist gains have also denounced the technology. ?Is the government aware that consuming GM food causes the cancer of reproductive organs?? asked Joshua Kutuny, the Member of Parliament for Cherangany Constituency when the issue came up for debate in parliament on Thursday.

Abdulrazak told scientists at a forum to launch a plan to raise awareness on biotechnology in Nairobi on Thursday that this should be the last time science community is caught unawares in a debate that it should have helped avoid.

?The farmers are asking: where are the scientists to explain to us what biotechnology is. We risk being dragged behind if we fail to create awareness on technologies we develop. Biotechnology will help us produce more from less and this should be clear to Kenyan,? he said.

Most media outlets in Kenya including television and print media have been highlighting the negative effects of GM crops. This fact has left scientists in a vulnerable situation where what they have struggled to come up with to help farmers is now being rejected partly because they failed to communicate better to their target audience.

Agriculture Secretary Wilfred Songa said Kenya risks losing out on very important technology is the public backlash is allowed to continue based n misinformation.

?There is a knowledge gap of people talking about GMOs so the scientists who are knowledgeable on this issue must reach out to the public to create awareness,? he said. He noted that Kenya cannot afford to abandon biotechnology when the country?s population is increasing by 1 million people every year who require food.

He gave an example of tissue culture banana, which has been technologically developed to give yields early and produce better banana fruits. It is estimated the banana type has tripled production of bananas in Kenya in the last 10 years.

Kenya recently cleared the legal handles that prevented it from commercialising GM crops. She plans to introduce commercialized GM cotton in 2014, thereafter GM maize, as she has been carrying trials of GM cotton and maize.

Kenya scientists under the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute are developing drought resistant maize variety and bio-fortified sorghum.

Bio-fortification is the process by which scientists seek out nature?s super foods to boost the nutrition of less enriched varieties either through genetic modification or selective breeding. This year, Kenya became the ninth country in Africa to achieve the minimum 10 percent budgetary allocation to farming as prescribed in the 2003 Maputo Declaration on agriculture and food security in Africa.

Songa noted that substantial amount of this money will be directed to biotechnology research. ?However, if scientists do not communicate properly with the public, there will be no justification of increasing this budget. The public must be told of the achievements being made in the laboratories and the benefits on land,? he said.

Commercial cereal farmers in Kenya have however been supportive of the introduction of the GMOs basing their support on success of such farming methods in South Africa among other countries.

?Lots of delegations from Kenya have gone to South Africa to learn about GMO and when they hear we still have food scarcity problems, they wonder what is wrong with us,? said David Nyameino, the chief executive officer of the Cereal Growers Association. ?The technology is not a miracle for Kenya, but it will raise yields, help achieve food security and enable cereals farming to make business sense.?

Scientists said the debate in Kenya should focus on what the country will lose by not adopting GMO.



                                  PART 5

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TITLE:   I HAVE EATEN GM FOOD, SAYS MINISTER

SOURCE:  Daily Nation, Kenya

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.nation.co.ke/News/I+have+eaten+GM+food+says+minister/-/1056/1206050/-/rfi6vh/-/

DATE:    22.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Education assistant minister Ayiecho Olweny asked Kenyans to ignore false claims about the food. ?I have eaten genetically modified food in South Africa and I have not died. I have not had any negative effect from eating it,? he said at a press conference at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi. Prof Olweny, who taught genetics and agriculture at Nairobi and Maseno universities before becoming an MP, refuted claims that GM food had negative effects."

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I HAVE EATEN GM FOOD, SAYS MINISTER

Education assistant minister Ayiecho Olweny asked Kenyans to ignore false claims about the food.

?I have eaten genetically modified food in South Africa and I have not died. I have not had any negative effect from eating it,? he said at a press conference at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi.

Prof Olweny, who taught genetics and agriculture at Nairobi and Maseno universities before becoming an MP, refuted claims that GM food had negative effects.

He said GM crops were the product of research in agriculture just as technological advances resulted in the development of mobile phones.

He said Kenya had the capacity to handle GM products, contrary to the assertion made by Public Health minister Beth Mugo a week ago.

?I?ll say that here, and I?ll say it again tomorrow,? said Prof Olweny.

He said the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, the International Livestock Research Institute and universities could handle the products.

Prof Olweny claimed there were chances Kenyans were wearing clothes made of genetically modified cotton from China, which has 3.5 million hectares of the cotton.

?The most likely thing is that the dress you are wearing, the shirt, the underwear, the towel you use to wipe yourself is made of GM cotton. Have you felt anything?? he posed.



                                  PART 6

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TITLE:   RUTO BACKS GMO IMPORTATION

SOURCE:  Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Kenya

AUTHOR:  Lillian Mwendo

URL:     http://www.kbc.co.ke/news.asp?nid=71488

DATE:    24.07.2011

SUMMARY: "A proposal to import genetically modified maize to cushion Kenyans against a looming maize shortage continues to generate debate with Eldoret North MP and once Agriculture Minister William Ruto accusing leaders of misleading the country on the facts about GMOs. Ruto is allaying fears that genetically modified foods can cause adverse effects on consumers, saying the same has worked elsewhere. He says GMOS are the answer to the problem of food insecurity facing the country."

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RUTO BACKS GMO IMPORTATION

Ruto is allaying fears that genetically modified foods can cause adverse effects on consumers

A proposal to import genetically modified (GMO) maize to cushion Kenyans against a looming maize shortage continues to generate debate with Eldoret North MP and once Agriculture Minister William Ruto accusing leaders of misleading the country on the facts about GMOs.

Ruto is allaying fears that genetically modified foods can cause adverse effects on consumers, saying the same has worked elsewhere.

He says GMOS are the answer to the problem of food insecurity facing the country.

Ruto says genetically modified foods have been tried elsewhere and shown positive results in addressing food insecurity.

He is advising the country to give the technology a chance in tackling poverty and famine while cautioning that adequate research should be carried out.

The debate on GMO foods has in the recent past assumed powerful political overtones with leaders against the consumption of scientifically modified foods putting forward energetic criticism of the technology.

Several Members of Parliament have been on the forefront in their campaign against a proposal by the government to approve importation of GM maize.



                                  PART 7

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TITLE:   NEW TECHNOLOGY NECESSARY TO MITIGATE DROUGHT

SOURCE:  Capital FM News, Kenya

AUTHOR:  Catherine Karongo

URL:     http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2011/07/29/new-technology-necessary-to-mitigate-drought/

DATE:    29.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Immediate former Vice president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa Dr Akin Adesina said on Thursday that the country should not run away from new scientific technologies that could improve food security. ?If you look at Kenya today, you always have a problem with drought in the north but if you have the power of science available to KARI, and they can actually get a gene that can impart drought tolerance into maize, why not? Obviously that is going to solve the problem but you need to have scientists that are well trained and let them make the decisions,?"

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NEW TECHNOLOGY NECESSARY TO MITIGATE DROUGHT

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 29 ? Kenya has been challenged to embrace new technologies in order to avert the recurrent food crises.

This comes in the wake of a controversial debate on whether the country should allow import of genetically modified (GMO) maize.

Immediate former Vice president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Dr Akin Adesina said on Thursday that the country should not run away from new scientific technologies that could improve food security.

?If you look at Kenya today, you always have a problem with drought in the north but if you have the power of science available to KARI (Kenya Agricultural Research Institute), and they can actually get a gene that can impart drought tolerance into maize, why not? Obviously that is going to solve the problem but you need to have scientists that are well trained and let them make the decisions,? he said in an interview with Capital News.

Dr Adesina who is also the newly appointed Minister for Agriculture in Nigeria said the solution to the current food crisis was through adoption of new innovations.

?In almost every technology, there are risks. Even life itself is a risk. You must be able to weigh the risks and the benefits to see whether the benefits far outweigh the risks,? he remarked.

In the past three weeks, there has been mixed reactions on an intended importation of genetically modified maize to deal with the current food crisis that has affected an estimated 3.5 million Kenyans.

?I think in this entire hullabaloo about GMO, people miss the real issue, that science has the power to do a lot,? Dr Adesina opined.

?What we need to do in my view is not to run away from science but to look at it very critically in the context of the challenges of food security that we face and then use regulations to determine what comes into the country by assessing all the risks,? he stated.

Those for adoption of GMO in the country argue that it is a technology that has been tried and proven safe in other parts of the world while those opposed term the technology as unsafe because of the manipulation of genes.

?We should not use emotion to determine what science is,? Dr Adesina said.

?Africa cannot be the last in everything; we need to join the pack that uses science and technology to address food problems,? he proposed.



                                  PART 8

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TITLE:   SCHOLARS IN BID TO PUT GM FOOD FEARS TO REST

SOURCE:  Daily Nation, Kenya

AUTHOR:  Dennis Odunga

URL:     http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Scholars+in+bid+to+put+GM+food+fears+to+rest/-/1056/1217058/-/749l86z/-/

DATE:    10.08.2011

SUMMARY: "The chairman of the Vice-Chancellors? Committee, Prof Barasa Wangila, said the debate should not be limited to crops alone but should extend to products like chicken and fruits. [...] Saying debate over GM maize was generating a lot of unnecessary heat, Prof Wangila added that GMOs have been used to produce high yield animals, crops and birds. [...] He said fast-maturing, drought-resistant and pest-resistant GM crops would end Kenya?s food shortages."

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SCHOLARS IN BID TO PUT GM FOOD FEARS TO REST

The chairman of the Vice-Chancellors? Committee, Prof Barasa Wangila, said the debate should not be limited to crops alone but should extend to products like chicken and fruits.

The breeding genetics expert said the country was able to test foreign genes in crops to ensure what Kenyans ate met international safety standards.

His remarks came as Government insisted no GM maize has arrived in the country.

A statement by the Presidential Press Service following a Cabinet meeting yesterday said the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology had been told to prepare a report on concerns over GMOs.

Prof Wangila said universities, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) were capable of carrying out the tests.

?Those mandated to offer guidance on the matter should not treat Kenyans to speculation. They should not sing to the tune of politicians whose ministries their parastatals fall under,? he said.

Saying debate over GM maize was generating a lot of unnecessary heat, Prof Wangila added that GMOs have been used to produce high yield animals, crops and birds.

End food shortages

?Some of these agencies are demonstrating that they cannot account for what they earn. What do they test if they have no capability of handling GMOs?? Prof Wangila asked.

He said fast-maturing, drought-resistant and pest-resistant GM crops would end Kenya?s food shortages.

Dr Christopher Ngichabe, an assistant director of biotechnology and biodiversity conservation at Kari said Kenya?s capacity to test GM crops is underutilised.

?We have loads of capacity to assure Kenyans that GMO crops are safe for consumption,? Dr Ngichabe said.

The National Biosafety Authority acting boss, Dr Roy Mugiira, said that guidelines on importation, export and transit of GM crops will ensure safety for human health and environment, but added, the authority had not approved any GM maize imports.

He said nobody had applied to import GM foods as the regulations were not yet out.