The government has lifted its ban on Genetically Modified Crops (GMO) after 10 years’ suspension.
Farmers will therefore be allowed to cultivate and import food crops and animal feeds produced through biotechnology.
The decision was arrived at today, October 3, 2022, during a cabinet meeting chaired by President William Ruto.
Kenya has been reluctant to approve the import or planting of genetically modified food crops since November 2012, amid an ongoing debate about the safety of GMO crops, which are touted to have several advantages such as resistance to drought, pests, and higher yields.
The decision, according to dispatch from the Cabinet was reached in accordance with the recommendation of the Task Force to Review Matters Relating to Genetically Modified Foods and Food Safety, and in fidelity with the guidelines of the National Biosafety Authority on all applicable international treaties including the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB).
“In accordance with the recommendation of the Task Force to Review Matters Relating to Genetically Modified Foods and Food Safety, and in fidelity with the guidelines of the National Biosafety Authority on all applicable international treaties including the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), Cabinet vacated its earlier decision of 8th November, 2012 prohibiting the open cultivation of genetically modified crops and the importation of food crops and animal feeds produced through biotechnology innovations; effectively lifting the ban on Genetically Modified Crops. By dint of the executive action open cultivation and importation of White (GMO) Maize is now authorized,” reads the statement from the cabinets office.
Today’s decision follows an earlier Cabinet decision made on December 19 2019, regarding the commercialization of Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) Cotton Hybrids in Kenya, which is a genetically enhanced variety of cotton that is resistant against African Bollworm, the most destructive and pervasive pest in cotton framing.
Cabinet’s office further noted earlier approval sought to revamp production of textiles, apparel, feed, and oil-industries towards the realisation of the industrialization; and today’s Cabinet decision builds on it and also extends its benefits to other agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
“As part of the medium to long term responses to the ongoing drought, and as a progressive step towards significantly redefining agriculture in Kenya by adopting crops that are resistant to pests and disease.”
In April, the United States government slammed Kenya for its failure to approve imported genetically modified foods and crops saying the measure is restricting its exports.
The US Trade Representative’s office (USTR) said in its annual report the approval by Kenya could boost agricultural purchases from the US which is the world’s biggest producer of GMO crops.
The move has restricted the sales of products from US companies, which have been seeking potential new markets like Kenya.
“Kenya’s GE ban has blocked both US government food aid and agricultural exports derived from agricultural biotechnology,” the USTR said in its annual trade barriers list published in late March.
The move is part of the medium to long-term responses to the ongoing drought, and a progressive step towards significantly redefining agriculture in Kenya by adopting crops that are resistant to pests and disease.
This move will go a long way in reducing the cost of animal feeds and reducing pressure on maize meant for human consumption.
On the flipside, the main concerns on adverse effects of GM foods on health are the transfer of antibiotic resistance, toxicity and allergenicity.