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POLICY & REGULATION: Kenyan lobbies push government to halt importation of GM maize



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   KENYAN LOBBIES PUSH GOVERNMENT TO HALT IMPORTATION OF GM MAIZE

SOURCE:  Africa Science News Service, Kenya

AUTHOR:  Naftali Mwaura

URL:     http://www.africasciencenews.org/asns/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2876&Itemid=2

DATE:    04.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Lobby groups in Kenya representing small holder farmers, consumers and social justice movements Friday made an appeal to the government to halt importation of genetically modified maize into the country. The renewed pressure by lobby groups coincide with emerging evidence that wealthy millers are negotiating with the government to be allowed to import tones of GM maize as the East Africa?s largest economy grapple with a gaping deficit on maize. Local press reports have alleged that unscrupulous traders have sneaked in genetically modified maize into the country through porous borders."

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KENYAN LOBBIES PUSH GOVERNMENT TO HALT IMPORTATION OF GM MAIZE

Lobby groups in Kenya representing small holder farmers, consumers and social justice movements Friday made an appeal to the government to halt importation of genetically modified maize into the country.

The renewed pressure by lobby groups coincide with emerging evidence that wealthy millers are negotiating with the government to be allowed to import tones of GM maize as the East Africa?s largest economy grapple with a gaping deficit on maize.

Local press reports have alleged that unscrupulous traders have sneaked in genetically modified maize into the country through porous borders.

Nevertheless, activists reiterate that Kenya is ill-equipped to handle massive infiltration of GM maize against a backdrop of weak legal, political and policy safeguards.

Justus Lavi, the Secretary, Kenya Small-scale farmers? forum, challenged the government to ?immediately put a stop to importation of GM maize?.

Lavi read a petition on behalf of smallholders urging the authorities to review the position of GM maize in addressing food security.

?Farmers demand a stop to importation of GM maize. Patented seeds and chemical fertilizers threatens the livelihoods of smallholders?, said Lavi.

He noted that ?farmers are seriously endangered by GM products?.

Lavi raised alarm on ongoing research in universities and agricultural research institutes that heavily favors large scale adoption of genetically modified crops.

He decried laxity and official lethargy that is to blame for creating a conduit for unscrupulous traders to sneak GM maize into the country.

According to Lavi, Kenya has the potential to solve hunger if the government explores innovative ways to assist the small holders.

?Genetically modified crops can only give short term solutions ?noted Lavi.

Multinational giants in their push to export GM maize into Kenya threaten food sovereignty of smallholders.

CidiOtieno, the Convenor, UNGA Revolution, an Umbrella of grassroots movements in Kenya, challenged the government to safeguard the interests of small scale farmers in push to attain food security.

?Citizens should be consulted before importation of GM maize. It is the constitutional mandate of the government to protect Kenyans against importation of products that are harmful to their health?, said Otieno.

The grassroots lobby will soon collect signatures to petition the government to destroy GM maize docked at the port of Mombasa.

Gacheke Gachihi, a social Justice activist, Bunge La Mwananchi Social Movement, said that ?it is a crime against humanity that we have a crisis of maize in the country, yet the government is feeding the people with maize flour that is poisoned (read GM Maize)?.

Gachihi condemned ?multinationals that are violating the rights of small peasant farmers?.

He noted that Kenya is being held hostage by a cabal of four powerful millers who have negotiated with the government to import GM maize.

Bunge La Mwannachi has vowed to block importation of GM maize through court injunctions.

Gachihi revealed that the lobby will organize demonstrations in July to press the President and the Prime Minister to halt importation of GM maize.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   KENYANS PROTEST OVER GM MAIZE IMPORTS

SOURCE:  British Broadcasting Corporation, UK (BBC)

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13991466

DATE:    01.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Hundreds of people have marched in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, against government plans to import genetically modified maize. They were protesting at reports that Kenya would lift its restrictions on GM crops following a recent drought, leading to maize shortages. The demonstrators said they believed a shipment had already arrived and feared it could contaminate the soil. Kenyan millers want to import cheap GM maize to cope with the shortages. The BBC?s Odhiambo Joseph in Nairobi says the protesters included farmers and environmentalists."

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KENYANS PROTEST OVER GM MAIZE IMPORTS

Hundreds of people have marched in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, against government plans to import genetically modified (GM) maize.

They were protesting at reports that Kenya would lift its restrictions on GM crops following a recent drought, leading to maize shortages.

The demonstrators said they believed a shipment had already arrived and feared it could contaminate the soil.

Kenyan millers want to import cheap GM maize to cope with the shortages.

The BBC?s Odhiambo Joseph in Nairobi says the protesters included farmers and environmentalists.

?The importation of GM maize is a ploy by leading millers to kill us - the small-scale farmer,? protester Gacheke Gachihi said.

The march was organised by the African Biodiversity Network and the Unga Revolution.

?Toxic product?

They said a consignment of GM maize from South Africa was in the port city of Mombasa, waiting to be off-loaded.

They wanted it destroyed or sent back, the protesters said.

The chairman of the Kenyan parliament?s agriculture committee, John Mututho, confirmed to the BBC that the GM maize was at the port.

He said he would lead a delegation of parliamentarians to Mombasa next week to inspect the consignment.

?We are totally opposed to this toxic product,? Mr Mututho said.

The Kenyan government approved a law last year to import GM products.

However, this was subject to the state-run National Biosafety Authority (NBA) giving its go-ahead.

?First for country?

Roy Mujiira from the NBA said the body now intended to give the green light.

?We are targeting to publish the regulation by next week, and it is a first for the country,? he told Reuters news agency.

Kenya is facing an acute maize shortage, caused by a prolonged drought.

Millers have been lobbying the government to allow them to import GM maize, saying it would help end the shortage and lower prices.

?GM maize is cheaper by about 30% compared with non-GM maize,? Diamond Lalji, the chairman of Kenya?s Cereal Millers Association, told Reuters.

The government recently dropped tariffs on maize imports in order to curb a sharp rise in prices.

African countries have been under pressure from the pro-GM lobby, led by the US, to grow GM crops to reduce hunger.

South Africa farms GM maize, but there is strong resistance to it in many other African countries.

Supporters of GM crops say they boost production and require less fertiliser and pesticides.

Opponents say more scientific data is needed, arguing that their long-term genetic impact on humans and wildlife could be harmful.

In 2002, Zambia rejected GM food aid in the midst of a food crisis affecting some three million people.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   STATE MUST ENSURE ALL  GM FOODS ARE LABELLED

SOURCE:  Business Daily, Kenya

AUTHOR:  Opinion

URL:     http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Opinion+++Analysis/State+must+ensure+all++GM+foods+are+labelled/-/539548/1194674/-/vekcuw/-/

DATE:    05.07.2011

SUMMARY: "The government?s approval of the production and trade in genetically modified crops in the country has come at a time when this country is facing a food crisis. The timing is apt. But we need to be cautious to protect the health and economic interests of the people as projected in our Constitution in reference to Consumer Rights. Consumers have a right to know the nature of the produce and companies that trade in GM foods must appropriately label them so that buyers are aware of what they are buying. That is the bedrock of consumer rights."

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STATE MUST ENSURE ALL  GM FOODS ARE LABELLED

The government?s approval of the production and trade in genetically modified crops in the country has come at a time when this country is facing a food crisis. The timing is apt. But we need to be cautious to protect the health and economic interests of the people as projected in our Constitution in reference to Consumer Rights.

Consumers have a right to know the nature of the produce and companies that trade in GM foods must appropriately label them so that buyers are aware of what they are buying. That is the bedrock of consumer rights.

The GM crops will give this country a cheaper source of food and this will go a long way to alleviate hunger. But we must address the fears of the anti-GM activists who say that the seeds have a terminator gene and that will make our farmers rely on Western companies for their seeds.

We hope that the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, which has operationalised the Biosafety Act of 2009 will put a strong regulatory framework and that the National Safety Authority, the body charged with the task of regulation, will have the necessary powers to protect the consumers.

Lobbyists are still convinced that Biosafety Act of 2009 serves the interests of foreign Agribusiness, rather than the local farmers and consumers. There is genuine fear here which should be addressed by parliament.

The lobbyists argue that the patented seeds can harm our agricultural practices and destroy livelihoods and the seed sovereignty. We might find such institutions as Kenya Seed Company rendered irrelevant in the short run and replaced by American giants.

As a nation, we should not shy away from debating these issues. But having said that, we must tread carefully lest we end up in the hands of giant seed monopolies, which can dominate our seeds market.

Once such a window has been opened, it becomes very hard to close.

We are encouraged by the level of debate that has taken place on the GM foods and on the Biosafety Act of 2009. But as we walk on this path, that may address our food security woes, we should also tread carefully not to fall to the myriads of unseen commercial traps.

But to be above board, we must label the food items sold as such. This will not only allow the consumers the right to make a deliberate choice, but also ally any fears.