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RISK ASSESSMENT & APPROVAL: Kenyan cabinet clears GM maize imports awaiting biosafety approval



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   CABINET CLEARS GM MAIZE IMPORTS

SOURCE:  Daily Nation, Kenya

AUTHOR:  Walter Menya

URL:     http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Cabinet+clears+GM+maize+imports+/-/1056/1201488/-/14qeok5/-/index.html

DATE:    14.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Importation of genetically modified maize was given the green light by Cabinet on Thursday in a bid to fight off a food shortage in the country. The Cabinet approved a budget of Sh9 billion to buy food for an estimated 1.3 million Kenyans who need emergency aid due to a severe drought. [...] A request to import GM foods takes between 90 and 150 days to get the approval of the National Biosafety Authority according to the law. It is not clear whether the government will waive, or reduce the period."

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CABINET CLEARS GM MAIZE IMPORTS

Importation of genetically modified maize was given the green light by Cabinet on Thursday in a bid to fight off a food shortage in the country.

The Cabinet approved a budget of Sh9 billion to buy food for an estimated 1.3 million Kenyans who need emergency aid due to a severe drought.

The decision comes a day after Public Health minister Beth Mugo conceded that unscrupulous traders could have sneaked in the grain, raising fears that Kenyans have been eating the gene maize.

The minister had told a news conference on Wednesday that the ministry has no capacity to test the safety of genetically modified food.

But a statement after the Cabinet meeting yesterday said that there would ?be strict management of GMO food imports?.

Only millers would be allowed to import it and they would be expected to use it to mill flour only. No GM maize should be used as seed.

?All flour must be clearly labelled,? the statement from the Presidential Press Service stated.

The Cabinet said food coming into the country must be certified by the National Biosafety Authority.

The Cabinet also agreed that Sh9 billion would be used to buy emergency food.

Collision course

Allowing the importation of the maize could put the government on a collision course with activists opposed to GM food, who argue that it is unsafe.

The maize that has been coming into the country has been mainly from Malawi or Zambia, but now the doors have been opened for imports from South Africa and elsewhere where GM technology has been embraced.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service managing director James Onsando said on Wednesday that any imports must obtain clearance from the National Biosafety Authority before Kephis can allow it into the country. ?It will not be a secret,? Dr Onsando added.

A request to import GM foods takes between 90 and 150 days to get the approval of the National Biosafety Authority according to the law.

It is not clear whether the government will waive, or reduce the period.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   GMO MAIZE IMPORTS APPROVED

SOURCE:  The Standard, Kenya

AUTHOR:  Martin Mutua

URL:     http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000038973&cid=4&ttl=GMO%20maize%20imports%20approved

DATE:    14.07.2011

SUMMARY: "The Cabinet has directed strict management of genetically modified maize imports, while approving Sh9 billion to buy food for drought-hit areas. According to the meeting, which was chaired by President Kibaki at State House Thursday, the Cabinet said all GMO maize imported will only be used to make flour, and not as seeds. The Cabinet also instructed that all flour produced from GMO maize must be clearly labelled for ease of identification by consumers. It was also resolved that any in-coming GMO food must be certified by the National Biosafety Authority."

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GMO MAIZE IMPORTS APPROVED

The Cabinet has directed strict management of genetically modified maize imports, while approving Sh9 billion to buy food for drought-hit areas.

According to the meeting, which was chaired by President Kibaki at State House Thursday, the Cabinet said all GMO maize imported will only be used to make flour, and not as seeds.

The Cabinet also instructed that all flour produced from GMO maize must be clearly labelled for ease of identification by consumers.

Certification

It was also resolved that any in-coming GMO food must be certified by the National Biosafety Authority.

The Cabinet also sent out a warning to all importers flouting any directions from the authority that they would be dealt with in accordance with the stipulated rules.

To fund the Sh9 billion budget, Sh5 billion will be withdrawn from the Contingency Fund while Sh4 billion will be reallocated from existing ministerial budgets.

The funds will be used to purchase emergency food supplies that will be distributed to Kenyans in drought-hit areas.

Kenyans in several parts of the country face starvation because of the rising cost of living. Erratic weather patterns have compounded the problem with a massive crop failure witnessed in various regions.

According to the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), over 3.5 million people require relief food intervention until September when harvests from Kenya?s breadbaskets of Rift Valley and Western regions will be realised.

At the same time KRCS says from January to date, 16 people have died from hunger-related cases.

The most affected are communities in arid and semi-arid regions of the country, which depend on pastoralism and peasant agriculture for their livelihoods.

Malnutrition levels in these areas have risen to over 20 per cent. This is above the global acute malnutrition cut line index of 15 per cent.

The expected caseload for severely acute malnourished children under five years is 20,252, while those moderately malnourished are 106,502. In addition, approximately 49,758 pregnant and lactating women are moderately malnourished.

This is according to the latest assessments by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG).

?It is estimated that the number of the most vulnerable and the most affected by drought has increased from 2.4 million in January 2011 to between 3 and 3.5 million people currently,? said Mr Abdirahman Abass, KFSM chairman under the Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands Ministry. KFSM is composed of representatives from the Government, the UN and NGOs.

On the deaths related to hunger, the KRCS Secretary General, Abbas Gullet, said from the society?s field assessment, 16 people have died but added that does not mean they died directly from hunger.

?What we have gathered is that some of these people died from diseases that come from malnutrition, lack of water, conflict and starvation. We are on the ground trying to contain the situation,? said Gulllet.

In Kerio Division, five cases have been reported, East Pokot two, Kalapata one, Upper Eastern five, North Eastern at Damajale one and Nakoko two.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   MINISTER DENIES GM MAIZE IMPORTS CLEARED

SOURCE:  Daily Nation, Kenya

AUTHOR:  Walter Menya

URL:     http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Kenya+yet+to+approve+use+of+GMO+says+authority/-/1056/1200146/-/o72jhmz/-/

DATE:    13.07.2011

SUMMARY: "The government has denied that genetically modified food has been cleared for importation into the country. However, Public Health minister Beth Mugo admitted that unscrupulous traders could have sneaked in GM food, raising fears that Kenyans have been consuming genetically modified maize. The minister also told a news conference at her office yesterday that although the ministry was not opposed to GM food, the country had no capacity to test their safety."

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MINISTER DENIES GM MAIZE IMPORTS CLEARED

The government has denied that genetically modified food has been cleared for importation into the country.

However, Public Health minister Beth Mugo admitted that unscrupulous traders could have sneaked in GM food, raising fears that Kenyans have been consuming genetically modified maize.

The minister also told a news conference at her office yesterday that although the ministry was not opposed to GM food, the country had no capacity to test their safety.

The minister?s disclosure came amid media reports indicated that a ship with more than 8,000 tonnes of maize had docked at the port of Mombasa.

?From the outset, I wish to state that up to now, we are not aware of any GMO food that has been cleared for importation into Kenya,? Mrs Mugo said in her written speech.

And in her remarks outside the official statement, she said: ?Officially, we are not aware of the presence of GM maize in the country.

?However, we cannot rule it out completely because we understand what sometimes goes on at the port of Mombasa.?

According to the minister, no miller had approached the ministry or the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) for a permit to import GM maize.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services MD James Onsando also said that no GM maize had been imported.

?The maize that is coming in now is from either Malawi or Zambia and is non-GMO but we will take extra precaution if it is a consignment from South Africa.

?If it is from South Africa then it must obtain clearance from the National Biosafety Authority before we allow it in,? said Dr Onsando.

Biosafety law

Such a request for importation of GM food takes between 90 and 150 days to get the approval of NBA, according to the biosafety law.

At the same time, the NBA has confirmed that there was no GM product approved for consumption in the country.

?We also assure Kenyans that any approved GMO will be clearly labelled to allow individuals to make informed choices,? it said.

The assurance comes as biotechnology scholars appealed to Kenyans to shun those inciting them against GM products without valid explanations.

University of Nairobi?s Centre for Biotechnology director James Ochanda urged Kenyans to support scientifically proven arguments to address the biting food insecurity.



                                  PART 4

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TITLE:   GM MAIZE: REASSURE KENYANS ON ITS SAFETY

SOURCE:  The Nation, Kenya

AUTHOR:  Editorial

URL:     http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Editorial/GM+maize++Reassure++Kenyans+on+its+safety+/-/440804/1201260/-/5xg201z/-/

DATE:    14.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Guidelines issued by the Cabinet yesterday on genetically modified foods clear up a great deal of confusion. They are bound to be controversial insofar as they allow the importation of GM maize at a time when there are still a lot of worries over the safety of such foodstuffs. The Cabinet statement came just a day after an assurance by Public Health minister Beth Mugo that Kenya had not opened the doors to GM maize. Not so reassuring, however, was her admission that she could not rule out such maize being already in the market."

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GM MAIZE: REASSURE KENYANS ON ITS SAFETY

Guidelines issued by the Cabinet yesterday on genetically modified foods clear up a great deal of confusion.

They are bound to be controversial insofar as they allow the importation of GM maize at a time when there are still a lot of worries over the safety of such foodstuffs.

The Cabinet statement came just a day after an assurance by Public Health minister Beth Mugo that Kenya had not opened the doors to GM maize. Not so reassuring, however, was her admission that she could not rule out such maize being already in the market.

Her assurance came with the rider that ?officially we are not aware of the presence of GM maize in the country . . . we cannot rule it out completely because we understand what happens at the port of Mombasa.?

The garbled message presented the picture of a government unaware of what was going on; and one that would be impotent if merchants chose to circumvent all safeguards related to GM foods.

It also presented a picture of a government whose left hand does not know what the right is doing.

Kenyans are being presented with conflicting information from the ministries of Public Health, Agriculture, Special Programmes, and Higher Education, Science and Technology.

The situation is also muddied by the conflicting positions exhibited by a myriad administrative, research and regulatory bodies, especially the National Biosafety Authority, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and the University of Nairobi?s Centre for Biotechnology.

At the very least Kenyans should expect coherent policies from their government free of doublespeak and contradictions.

Hopefully the Cabinet statement clarifies matters, but it must be followed by action that ensures Kenya has the capacity to vigorously enforce the safety regulations. Public worries about the safety of GM foods cannot be taken lightly.



                                  PART 5

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TITLE:   UNGA PRICES TO COME DOWN NEXT MONTH

SOURCE:  Daily Nation, Kenya

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Unga+prices+to+come+down+next+month++/-/1056/1201506/-/dj2o16/-/

DATE:    14.07.2011

SUMMARY: "It will take at least a month for prices of maize flour to come down despite the arrival of cereal imports from Malawi and Zambia, millers say. The price of maize flour is already at a pricey Sh140 per two-kilogramme packet and, according to the millers, the cost would most probably reduce after all the imports have arrived. Mr Diamond Lalji, the chairman of the Millers Association of Kenya, 54,000 tonnes of maize had been ordered from the two central African countries but only 8,000 tonnes had arrived in Mombasa."

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UNGA PRICES TO COME DOWN NEXT MONTH

It will take at least a month for prices of maize flour to come down despite the arrival of cereal imports from Malawi and Zambia, millers say.

The price of maize flour is already at a pricey Sh140 per two-kilogramme packet and, according to the millers, the cost would most probably reduce after all the imports have arrived.

Mr Diamond Lalji, the chairman of the Millers Association of Kenya, 54,000 tonnes of maize had been ordered from the two central African countries but only 8,000 tonnes had arrived in Mombasa.

?The consignment is being inspected and awaiting clearance before we can start milling,? Mr Lalji said.

He said that three to four million bags of maize were required to stabilize supplies and prices.

Mr Lalji says Another 20,000 tonnes of maize are expected on July 22, said Mr Lalji.

The situation will improve now that maize harvests have started in Bomet and Trans Mara.

Millers want the clearance of maize imports hastened. They have also called for safeguards against hoarding.

Mr Lalji said that due to the slow process of clearing the imports, they may not import three million bags of maize needed by November, when the harvest will be in the market.

He said it was difficult to import maize from landlocked Malawi and Zambia as the produce has pass through Mozambique for shipment to Kenya.

The chairman also said millers were not keen to import genetically modified organisms maize as most Kenyans ?are uncomfortable with it.?

Public Health minister Beth Mugo has said the country did not have all requisite equipment to test the suitability of GMO produce.

During a visit to Dadaab refugee camp on Thursday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga appealed for donor food assistance and a lasting solution to the refugee problem.