Published on 04/05/2011
News that commercial farming of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) could soon be a reality in the country will likely reignite debate on the role of biotechnology in ensuring food security. The National Biosafety Authority was recently quoted as promising that regulations governing production of GMOs were ready for adoption. These will guide implementation of the Biosafety Act, 2009 which sought to regulate GMOs farming.
Biosafety describes measures used for assessing, monitoring, and managing risks associated with GMOs. These are plants, animals or microorganisms that have had DNA inserted into their cells from another organism.
The direct in vitro transfer of DNA between or within species is referred to as genetic modification.
It is expected that embracing GMOs will promote increased food harvests and therefore, a natural mitigation for food shortage. Considering the below-average rains being experienced in many regions in the country and the looming famine, this should be good news.
Touting GMOs as the silver bullet for food scarcity is nothing new. Governments in Africa, including Kenya, that are exposed to recurrent food insufficiency are under increasing pressure to adopt GM technology.
The passing of the Biosafety Act was characterised by open lobbying by pro-biotechnology multinational giants against determined proponents of conservative, ecologically-sustainable agriculture practice. Eventually, the pro-GMO camp prevailed. However, it was apparent genuine debate on the merits and demerits of the GMOs had been subverted by powerful, vested interests.