Crop Biotech Update

Kenyan Scientists Concerned Perceptions on GMOs May Slow Down GM Crops Commercialization

September 19, 2018

Kenyan scientists have expressed their concern that negative perceptions tied to genetically modified organism (GMOs) could be detrimental in commercializing GM crops in the country. Speaking during a cassava stakeholder study tour to GM cassava research confined field trial (CFT) site in the country's coastal region, the scientists dismissed any fears associated with biotech crops saying GMOs are subjected to very rigorous safety assessments before they are approved.

Dr. Richard Oduor, a senior lecturer at Kenyatta University's Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology lamented that the ban on importation of GM foods imposed in the country in 2012 was largely fueled by poor perceptions on GMOs. He termed it unfortunate and ill-informed. He wondered why the government has not lifted the ban yet it continues to fund GM research studies. "Scientists have not been given enough opportunity to advise the government regarding the ban," said Dr. Oduor. "GM foods have been ratified by reputable international bodies such as World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)," he added.

ISAAA AfriCenter Director Dr. Margaret Karembu said the ban affects the perception of what key decision and policy makers have about biotechnology. "It is time we up our momentum in sensitizing every segment of our society about the safety and benefits of GM crops," she said. Dr. Karembu termed the ban a deterrent to research development in biotech crops.

Dr. Karembu, however, applauded the government for drafting flour blending guidelines that are set to be operationalized by the end of the year. The initiative will have all flour blended by crops including cassava, sorghum, millet, and sweet potato to contribute towards food security and improved nutrition. "I hope that this initiative will drive cassava into the national system making it a key food security crop in the country," she said.

For more updates about biotech in Kenya, visit the ISAAA AfriCenter website.