Kenyan Farmer

Joining South Africa, Burkina Faso and Egypt, Kenya is now the fourth African country to allow importing of genetically modified foods.

Kenya’s move towards GMOs comes as many countries across the continent are rallying against the risks genetically modified crops pose to the health of African people and its land. But, Kenyan officials and Monsanto, the biotech giant providing the modified seeds and companion pesticide, Roundup, view the introduction of engineered seeds to the struggling nation as a tactical way to handle the increasing chronic grain shortages plaguing the country.

Kenyans who wish to produce or import genetically modified crops must first get written consent from the newly created regulatory agency, the National Safety Authority. Despite the tight regulations on who can import or grow engineered foods, GM corn is expected to represent a substantial percentage of shipments to the country through the rest of the year.

Resistance to pests and diseases are prime drivers for the move toward GMOs according to government officials and scientists at the University of Nairobi’s Centre for Biotechnology and Bioinformatics.  Overcoming the risk of infestation will help shrink the challenges in feeding the nation of 41 million, the 8th most populated country in Africa.

But opposition is arguing that the short-term benefits do not outweigh the long-term risks. Anne Maina, advocacy coordinator for African Biodiversity Network said in a statement, “Introduction of patented seeds and related chemicals into our farming systems threatens our agricultural practices, our livelihoods, the environment, and undermines our seed sovereignty.”

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image: CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture