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Home / Health & Science

Plan to lift ban on GMOs not in the interest of common Kenyans

Health & ScienceBy Paula Odhiambo | Fri,Aug 21 2015 09:40:00 UTC | 3 min read

While I was browsing Kenyan news websites a few days ago, like I usually do, I was dismayed to come across articles referencing an announcement by Deputy President William Ruto that the Kenya government will be lifting the ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) within the next few weeks.

It is my understanding that, at least theoretically, every government exists to serve its people, and so I scoured the articles and watched the news station’s YouTube clips, trying to find information on a day or an occasion when the people of Kenya had stated or indicated that they wanted their government to lift the ban. I found nothing.

We can speculate on many things, including whether this new stance was the reason for the US President’s recent visit to Kenya, and whether this announcement by the Deputy President is one way to secure relief from certain things hanging over his head, but all this is purely speculation. At the end of the day, if we are to be honest with ourselves, it does not matter as much as the fact that somebody out there is willing to sell our nation and its future generations for a piece of bread.

While the field of public health is of great interest to me, I do not consider myself a scientist. However, like many Kenyans, I am a patriot, and I believe that there is no true patriotism without a desire to be “my brother’s keeper” and a consideration for the welfare of the coming generations.

Because this issue causes me great concern, I have a few questions, and I would like to ask them on behalf of myself as well as the large number of Kenyans who, like me, do not consider themselves to be scientists, but are very concerned about how this looming step by the government will affect their children and their children’s children.

My first question: By what authority is the government taking the steps to lift the ban on GMOs? We voted these officials in to serve our general, national interests, not their personal ones. What is it in the country’s current emotional temperature that gives DP the impression that the people are okay with the removal of this ban?

Secondly, at least 26, but possibly up to 60 of the world’s nations have put in place significant restrictions or outright bans on GMO products. What is it that these nations see that Kenya – sorry, the Kenya government – does not see?

Further, what options will exist for those who choose not to participate in ingesting foods that contain GMOs? Can the government assure us that if this ban is lifted, all foods containing GMOs will be clearly labelled so that we have the choice not to buy them? Given our country’s history of legendary corruption, how do we know that certain bigshots will not be able to sneak under the labelling radar and sell us unlabelled GMOs?

What measures will be put in place to protect Kenyan farmers, particularly those who choose not to participate in farming these products or raising modified farm animals? What assurance can we get regarding rumours of seed patenting, particularly by one large agricultural biotechnology corporation which has consistently tried to dig its roots deeper into Kenya, and is known for the production of GM foods as well as harmful insecticides/herbicides and controversial peptide hormones?

Finally, can the government provide information on scientific studies that have proven that GMOs are safe for human consumption? Is any research currently being undertaken to this effect? If not, can sufficient justification be provided for exposing Kenyans to something that, at the very least, is not safe, and at worst, could be extremely harmful?

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