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Scientists insist GM foods safe, want ban lifted

By Sophiah Muthoni | Published Mon, March 2nd 2015 at 00:00, Updated March 1st 2015 at 22:20 GMT +3

Kenya has both the technology and human resource to adopt biotechnology especially on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), scientists have said.

Speaking at the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology, Kenya Chapter, meeting, Endebess MP and the vice chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Health Robert Pukose claimed that despite the skepticism surrounding GM products, no evidence had been presented to indicate that they are not safe.

"People have said that genetically modified crops cause cancer but no one has presented evidence. GM food is safe, probably safer than the other kinds of food because the scientists took time on it," said Pukose.

Present at the forum were experts on genetically modified crops including Margaret Karembu, the director of International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications Africenter.

Dr Karembu said that according to the Global Status of Commercialised Biotech/Genetically modified (GM) Crops report, a record 181.5 million hectares of biotech crops were grown globally in 2014.

"Biotech is a tool not a system and we are not pushing for it so that it replaces other forms of farming. The adoption of biotech has increased a thousand fold since 1996 and it is now being picked up by continents that are moving to improve the lives of their people such as Asia," she added.

Drought tolerant

Dr Karembu said countries that have approved the planting of GM crops include United States that approved two new biotech crops for cultivation in 2014.

"They approved the planting of the innate potato, which is a food staple with lower levels of acrylamide, less wastage due to bruising and has higher digestibility and yield.

"Indonesia, on the other hand, approved drought tolerant sugarcane with Brazil approving high tolerance soy bean and a homegrown virus resistant bean among other countries such as Canada and Bangladesh," she said.

Karembu said that GM foods had increased yield by 22 per cent globally. She added that Kenya has its own projects in the pipeline and may soon result in the commercialisation of genetically modified cassava, cotton, maize, sorghum and sweet potato.

The Kenya University Biotechnology Consortium Chairman Richard Oduor said since using genetically modified medicines to treat or manage illnesses such as diabetes has become acceptable, it should not be an issue in the case of GM crops.

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