July 11, 2011

 

Kenya opens up to GM crops

 

 

Kenya has become the fourth country in Africa to open up to GM crops after approving laws to allow their production and importation, but it faces growing resistance from lobbyists against the move.

 

The laws came into effect in July 1, ending restrictions on GM maize and other products, according to Acting Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Hellen Sambili.

 

The laws will open the Kenyan market, which faces frequent grain deficits, to major suppliers such as South Africa whose exports were affected by the previous ban.

 

Importation of GM maize into the country would help to mitigate a looming shortage, as the Kenyan government is anticipating a shortfall in the supply of maize of 1.3 million tonnes in the 2011/12 season due to drought.

 

Lobby groups opposed to gene alteration, noting health concerns such as development of mutations and allergic reactions in humans, said they plan to oppose the laws.

 

"We are going to hold a demonstration in Mombasa to boycott importation and consumption of GM," said Betty Mwasia, an officer at Telum Kenya, a lobby group that advocates organic farming. Mombasa is the port city and gateway into east Africa. "We are also considering a court injunction to stop the GM shipment."

 

Kenya, east Africa's leading economy, follows South Africa, a leader in the continent on biotechnology and a major exporter of GM maize, as well as Egypt and Burkina Faso.

 

Other African economies, including Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Mali, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Ghana, are conducting research on GM crops such as maize, rice, and wheat that could prove to be the first step towards adoption.

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