Europe to shun Kenya’s GM crops, farmers told

Local farmers will find it difficult to export their crops to Europe if they adopt the Genetically Modified (GM) crops, according to the head of the EU delegation to Kenya, Lodewjik Briet.

“We have made this crystal clear to South Africans and I am telling the same to Kenyan farmers that it will be almost impossible to export GMOs to Europe,” Mr Briet said during Citizen TV’s breakfast show, Cheche, on Wednesday.

The warning comes at a time when Kenya is under pressure mainly from the Americans to lift a ban on the importation of genetically modified foods. The Kibaki Government banned the importation GMOs in 2012 following concerns that they could be linked to cancer.

Last week, Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia told the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Co-operatives that there is a lot of local and international pressure to have the ban lifted.

Among the organisations campaigning for the lifting of the ban is the Melinda Gates Foundation. “There has been a lot of lobbying. We had a meeting with Melinda Gates, but we didn’t take a position; we had to wait for a report of the task force that we formed to investigate the issue,” said Dr Macharia.

Taskforce report

The task force, which Macharia said has so far spent about Sh4 million, is said to have completed its work and ready to present the report to the CS, who will then coordinate its presentation to the Cabinet.

The task force chaired by Kihumbu Thairu, a board member at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, was gazetted last year and has been maintaining a secretariat at the Ministry of Health.

The task force’s activities have largely been conducted away from the public glare hence the anxieties that the verdict may cause.

Mr Briet was reacting to a question on why Europe is pushing GMOs to Kenyans. “That notion is wrong. May I make it clear that we are highly opposed to genetically modified foods and any Kenyan farmer going that way will find it hard to get a market in our region.”

The first GMO crop to be planted in Kenya, most likely cotton and maize, will mainly target the local market.

But some experts fear that importers of other agricultural products may skip the local produce for fear of it being contaminated, even if not intentional.

The American push for Kenya to lift the ban follows setbacks for the US GMO industry with Russia backtracking and China and France banning  the importation of  modified maize.

A draft law recently submitted to the Russian Parliament seeks to impose criminal prosecution to producers of GMOs harmful to health or the environment.