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Use biotechnology to end food insecurity - Ruto

BUSIA
By | Jul 15th 2010 | 2 min read

By PETER ORENGO

Higher Education Minister William Ruto has called for radical changes in agricultural production to ensure sustainable food supplies in the face of climate change.

These changes, he said, should include development of transgenic crops, also referred to as Genetically Modified (GM) crops.

The minister said adequate regulatory and institutional capacity would allow the use of biotechnology to produce enough food.

Keep pace

"The question in the minds of governments and policy makers is how food supply can keep pace with global demand. This challenge requires radical changes in the way food is produced," said Mr Ruto.

He said for a long time, Kenya had been ready to explore possibilities of producing GMOs to beat food insecurity, which has threatened lives of many. "What is needed is a functional system for us to tap into the potential of agricultural biotechnology," he said.

In a speech read on his behalf at a regional biosafety workshop in Nairobi, yesterday, the minister asked for speedy development of a system to ensure safety and sustainability of GMOs.

The workshop brought together national and institutional biosafety committees, plant quarantine officers, scientists and officers from government agencies.

Parliament approved the Biosafety Bill 2008, and the President assented it in February, last year.

This was followed by the establishment of the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) to exercise general supervision and control over transfer, handling and use of GMOs.

The biosafety regulations are yet to be gazetted, making NBA a lame duck and raising fears Kenyans could be consuming uncertified GMOs.

"It is true Kenyans could be consuming GMOs because our capacity is still tied by law," said NBA Director Harrison Macharia.

"Anything harmful cannot escape the stringent testing that GMOs go through before they are commercialised. Such tests are still ongoing," Macharia added.

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