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Lift GMO ban for food security, Kenyan MPs ask

By Kibiwott Korros | Aug 10th 2015 | 2 min read

NAIROBI: MPs from seven committees have backed scientists and asked the Government to lift the ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

If allowed, all parts of the country will have a chance to grow maize, including areas with severe scorching conditions like Marsabit, Turkana, Wajir and Mandera.

While explaining to the MPs how the biotechnology maize would be adopted, Dr Richard Oduor, the head of Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology at Kenyatta University, said the scientists would observe the traits of specific plants growing in these dry areas like the cactus.

The MPs were drawn from  Agriculture, Livestock and Cooperatives, Education, Research and Technology, Health, Environment and Natural Resources, Finance Planning and Trade committees.

Dr Oduor said scientists would identify genes of plants in dry areas and transfer them to plants like maize which are susceptible to harsh climatic conditions using biotechnology.

An example, he said, only a gene resistant to the sun would be removed from a cactus tree and inserted to the maize crop. "We will not have made the maize plant a cactus but just removed the gene that is resistant to the sun," he told the MPs during a meeting at the university on Friday.

Emuhaya MP Wilbur Ottichilo, a proponent of GMOs, said Kenya should join other countries in the world that had embraced the products. "We know GMOs are safe for human consumption. Credible institutions have conducted trials and have assured us of their safety," he said.

Health Committee Vice Chairperson Robert Pukose said the debate on GMOs in the country had derailed development.

"We need to produce enough maize which is the staple food for Kenyans. Several factors which include climate change have, however, reversed this. If we want to improve food security, let's embrace science," he said.

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