Kenya can still survive even with ban on these GM foods
| December 15th 2012
When Kenya banned the importation of genetically modified (GM) foods, it joined a group of South African countries that have done so.
Notable among these is Zambia, which rejected 35,000 tonnes of food aid in 2002, suspected to be genetically modified.
This was a bold move considering that three million Zambians were in dire need of food aid at the time.
As expected, this sparked a heated debate on the pros and cons of GM food especially on its use as food aid. The United States is the largest donor of food aid.
This is due to the direct tying of food aid to subsidised food grown locally in the US. It is requirement by US law that 75 per cent of US food aid is sourced, fortified, processed, and packaged in the US.
Furthermore, it is also a requirement by law that 75 per cent of all food aid must be transported on US flagged vessels.
Considering that the US has adopted the growing of GM foods, it is expected that a good percentage of food aid would be GM unless recipient governments request otherwise.
It is also expected that should more developing countries reject GM food aid, local farmers in the US, food processors and US shippers would lose substantial revenues accrued from trade on food aid.
Perhaps this is the underlying reason for the well-funded pro-GM advocacy in developing countries and in the EU by the US.
The scientific uncertainty on the effects of GM foods does not make decision-making for recipient countries any much easier. FAO and WHO state that they are not aware of any verifiable scientific documentation on the adverse effects of GM foods on human health.
Knowing that 2.2 million Kenyans are on relief food, what are the options available for Kenya? This country can decide to do away with GM foods altogether. Bilateral trade with African countries might be enhanced.
Secondly, Kenya can decide to import only milled GM foods to prevent cross breeding between GM foods and Kenyan crop varieties.
Thirdly, Kenya can request food aid in form of cash transfers. This would give the country liberty to source food aid locally or a source of its choice.
Lastly, Kenya can choose to implement the current Kenya Food Security and Nutrition Policy to its last letter.
Evans Kosgeyi, University of Nairobi
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