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POLICY & REGULATION: Chairman of Kenyan Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture warns of GM maize imports



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   HOUSE TEAM OPPOSES GM FOOD IMPORTS

SOURCE:  Daily Nation, Kenya

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.nation.co.ke/News/House+team+opposes+GM+food+imports++/-/1056/1195994/-/7ty1chz/-/

DATE:    06.07.2011

SUMMARY: "The House committee on Agriculture has warned that opening up the country to genetically modified products would endanger lives. Committee chairman John Mututho said the country lacked technical capacity to assess the quantity and type of genes in imported products. In an interview with the Nation, the MP said Kenya had a long way to go in fully embracing use of GM products while ensuring the health of its citizens. ?In other words, we do not have a functional body with equipment to test the products before releasing them to consumers,? he said."

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HOUSE TEAM OPPOSES GM FOOD IMPORTS

The House committee on Agriculture has warned that opening up the country to genetically modified (GM) products would endanger lives.

Committee chairman John Mututho said the country lacked technical capacity to assess the quantity and type of genes in imported products.

In an interview with the Nation, the MP said Kenya had a long way to go in fully embracing use of GM products while ensuring the health of its citizens.

?In other words, we do not have a functional body with equipment to test the products before releasing them to consumers,? he said.

Legal notice

The MP?s remarks followed the government decision to allow importation of GM crops into the domestic market.

A legal notice allowing the importation was issued last Friday. Those interested in importing are, however, required to seek the consent of the National Safety Authority.

But Mr Mututho, whose committee has opposed importation of GM products, said the move was dangerous.

The MP said the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service only had equipment to detect the presence of GM in products and not the type and quantity of genes the products carried.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   MUTUTHO SAYS MAIZE SHORTAGE IS ARTIFICIAL

SOURCE:  Nairobi Star, Kenya

AUTHOR:  Rita Damary

URL:     http://www.nairobistar.com/national/national/30261-mututho-accuses-millers-and-lobbies-over-gmo-imports

DATE:    04.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Chair of the PARLIAMENTARY Committee on Agriculture John Mututho has faulted a section of millers and lobby groups for insisting on importation of genetically modified maize to cushion against the shortage in the country. In what he termed as corruption, Mututho said the maize shortage is artificial and meant to benefit individuals at the expense of the public. [...] ?Maize shortage is another big scandal just like oil. The shortage has nothing to do with the environment and international market, but it is schemed business to make money,? said the Naivasha legislator."

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MUTUTHO SAYS MAIZE SHORTAGE IS ARTIFICIAL

Chair of the PARLIAMENTARY Committee on Agriculture John Mututho has faulted a section of millers and lobby groups for insisting on importation of genetically modified maize to cushion against the shortage in the country. In what he termed as corruption, Mututho said the maize shortage is artificial and meant to benefit individuals at the expense of the public.

Speaking yesterday during the Nakuru Agricultural Society of Kenya harvest thanks giving service held at Anglican Church of Kenya, Mututho said poor policies and culture of corruption in the ministry has largely contributed to food shortage.

He said GMOs have long-term effects on human beings and the environment and should not be consumed by Kenyans.?Maize shortage is another big scandal just like oil. The shortage has nothing to do with the environment and international market, but it is schemed business to make money,? said the Naivasha legislator.

Mututho claims that mismanagement at a number of parastatals in the Ministry of Agriculture has led to food insecurity in the country.

He proposed the formation of an oversight body and the scrapping of parastatals that have been overtaken by technological developments and agricultural trends ?To cut short continued food shortage in Kenya, a National Food Security Authority should be formed to see transparent mobilisation of agricultural resources in Kenya,? said Mututho.

Nakuru ASK chair Jephter Rono said the show will start on Thursday and President Kibaki is expected to officially open the event on July 8. ?Putting up a national authority will stabilise food independence in Kenya. It is a shame for the country to be faced by such challenges yet agriculture is one of the strongest sectors if well managed,? he saidd.

While comparing Kenya to Israel in agricultural development, Mututho challenged research institutes to adopt technological trends saying knowledge-based studies should be transformed into viable information for farmers. ?We are challenging researchers like Kenya Seed Company, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute among others to appreciate modern technology in a bid to improve food security,? said MP.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   GM FOOD MIGHT EASE HUNGER PROBLEM, BUT IS IT ULTIMATE SOLUTION TO SHORTAGES?

SOURCE:  Daily Nation, Kenya

AUTHOR:  Joseph Othieno

URL:     http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Opinion/GM+food+might+ease+hunger+problem/-/440808/1195758/-/4iyqxgz/-/

DATE:    06.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Escalating food prices and the accompanying scarcity has resurrected debate on whether Kenya should adopt the genetically modified organisms technology. Many will say why not if we are already importing the food for the hungry? The genetic engineering theory is rosy. The process has many applications. Most have endured the laboratory test but their field potential is yet to be tested conclusively. Incessant famines against soaring global population have cultivated fertile ground for the idea to flourish."

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GM FOOD MIGHT EASE HUNGER PROBLEM, BUT IS IT ULTIMATE SOLUTION TO SHORTAGES?

Dr Othieno is a science communication consultant.

Escalating food prices and the accompanying scarcity has resurrected debate on whether Kenya should adopt the genetically modified organisms (GMO) technology.

Many will say why not if we are already importing the food for the hungry? The genetic engineering theory is rosy. The process has many applications.

Most have endured the laboratory test but their field potential is yet to be tested conclusively. Incessant famines against soaring global population have cultivated fertile ground for the idea to flourish.

It is now about 15 years since GMOs were commercialised, a venture that was greeted by applause and condemnation in equal measure.

While initial debate was based on optimism by the inventors and skepticism from activists, increasing scientific inquiry and experiences have brought in an objective angle.

Scientists are now rooting for the revision of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which initially had a precautionary leaning on GMOs.

Biotechnology exploits desirable genes in organisms which can be transferred into another to arouse the development of similar characteristics in the recipient. This can be done across plant and animal species.

The improvement of desired traits in crops and animals is as old as man and has been done through selection, taming and breeding.

Conventionally, the process is time-consuming and may be inaccurate. Genetic engineering, on the other hand, yields desired traits rapidly and accurately.

Effective application of the technology is advantageous on many fronts. It reduces use of pesticides, conserving the environment.

Boosting the nutritive value of staple food crops in the developing world like cassava or rice can cheaply help end malnutrition and subsequent diseases.

Despite the litany of advantages, the technology has attracted opposition. The Indian experience with GMO cotton offers vital lessons.

India was among the first nations to commercialise GMO cotton, commonly called Bt cotton, which is genetically engineered through insertion of toxin-producing genes from a bacterium that kills bollworm, a major cotton pest.

Though the seeds were costly, it paid off handsomely as the initial harvests were high, triggering a positive feedback effect that drew more farmers to Bt cotton. Most farmers invested heavily through bank loans.

Hell broke loose when subsequent harvests backfired. The bollworm developed pesticide resistance and attacked. Farmers were left with no option but to use even more pesticide.

The repercussions left a bitter taste in the mouths of the farmers, several of whom committed suicide after failing to repay the loans.

Nonetheless, large-scale farmers in Arizona in the United States of America have successfully bid farewell to bollworm using the Bt cotton technology.

This brings into perspective the importance of effective management of biotechnology; while in Arizona scientists were the custodians of the technology, in India it was the lay farmer.

Hunger is a multi-faceted social problem. It would be myopic to view it only at the production level. While GMO maize may quell the pangs of hunger, a long-term intervention strategy is required.

GMO opponents maintain that the technology cannot solve food insecurity, but are just a means of perpetuating dominance over the masses by monopolising the means of production, as espoused by William Engdahl in his book Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation.

?Control the food and you control the people,? he says. Joining the voices of other anti-GMO activists are those who say the technology will kill indigenous knowledge and convert self-reliant farmers into beggars, as their knowledge is taken away patented, and sold back to them.

The Vatican?s support has not helped suppress religious opposition which has maintained that genetic modification touches on the very core of life and, thus, its products are a threat to the natural order and amounts to playing God.

Perhaps there is a reason why nature allows only organisms with a close evolution history to share genetic material through the natural process of fertilisation.